“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets:
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’”
John the Baptist Prepared the Way of the Lord
Mark 1:2 says, “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” My fellow believers, you can find the righteousness of God only if you throw away your preconceived notions and follow the Bible as the Word of God guides you. So when you read God’s Word, you must read it after forsaking your own thoughts and carnal desires. Only then can you realize and believe in the will of God that He wants to fulfill. The same principle applies to today’s Scripture passage as well. It is when you cast aside your fleshly thoughts and follow the Word of God as it leads you that you can properly understand the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus.
The messenger whom God sent before Jesus is none other than John the Baptist. Why did God say in Matthew 11:10-11 that He sent John the Baptist to you and me? Why did John the Baptist have to be sent six months before Jesus Christ was born on this earth? The reason for this was so that John would fulfill his duties as the High Priest of the Old Testament on this earth. Another reason was for him to pass the sins of mankind to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. As a descendant of Aaron the High Priest of the Old Testament, John the Baptist had been sent to fulfill the priesthood of his house by the will of God. Six months before Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist was conceived by God in Elizabeth’s womb, a descendant of Aaron the High Priest. This was done for the sake of the righteousness of God, to pass the sins of mankind to Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Luke introduces John the Baptist as the son of Zacharias, one of the priests from the division of Abijah. This means that John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was born from the division of Abijah, one of the grandsons of Aaron the High Priest. The division of Abijah here refers to his descendants. In other words, it refers to the descendants of Aaron the High Priest.
When the descendants of Aaron increased in number, King David established a rotating order for their priesthood, and Aaron’s descendants offered sacrifices according to this order. These sons of Aaron, who were all from the house of the High Priest, could minister as priests in turn for 15 days according to their respective divisions. Aaron’s descendants faithfully fulfilled their ministry as priests for the people of Israel; some as High Priests and others as common priests. That’s because God had given the privilege and blessing of serving as priests only to Aaron’s descendants.
The evidence for this is found in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19; let’s all turn to this passage here: “Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children; therefore Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests. Then David with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to the schedule of their service. There were more leaders found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar, and thus they were divided. Among the sons of Eleazar were sixteen heads of their fathers’ houses, and eight heads of their fathers’ houses among the sons of Ithamar. Thus they were divided by lot, one group as another, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of the house of God, from the sons of Eleazar and from the sons of Ithamar. And the scribe, Shemaiah the son of Nethanel, one of the Levites, wrote them down before the king, the leaders, Zadok the priest, Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the priests and Levites, one father’s house taken for Eleazar and one for Ithamar. Now the first lot fell to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, the fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, the ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah, the eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim, the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab, the fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, the seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Happizzez, the nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel, the twenty-first to Jachin, the twenty-second to Gamul, the twenty-third to Delaiah, the twenty-fourth to Maaziah. This was the schedule of their service for coming into the house of the LORD according to their ordinance by the hand of Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.”
Let us also turn to the account of the Day of Atonement when the people of Israel offered their yearly sacrifices to God. This scene is described in Leviticus 16:29-34: “‘This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.”
You must realize here that it is to the descendants of Aaron whom God had entrusted the office of the High Priest forever. It is the forever-unchanging Law of God for Aaron’s descendants to fulfill the office of the High Priest. For the atonement of the people of Israel, God made the High Priest offer sin offerings every year on the tenth day of the seventh month.
After the passing of the age of the Old Testament, and the age of the New Testament began, John the Baptist was born in the house of Aaron the High Priest to fulfill the ministry of passing all the sins of mankind to Jesus Christ by baptizing Him. Put differently, John the Baptist’s role was to fulfill the office of the last High Priest of the Old Testament.
Mark 1:1-2 Speaks of the Ministry of John the Baptist
It’s written in Luke 1:5, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” This passage mentions that both Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth were Aaron’s descendants. What we need to realize here and believe from this account is the ministry of John the Baptist and the gospel mystery of the water and the Spirit.
John the Baptist was born from Zacharias and Elizabeth, and these two belonged to the house of Aaron, the first High Priest of the Old Testament. God made John the Baptist born to Zacharias and his wife so that John would, first of all, inherit the office of the High Priest on this earth. As the representative of mankind who would baptize Jesus, John the Baptist was to fulfill the duties of the last priest of the age of the Old Testament. This was the providence of redemption found in Jesus Christ, and the work of the righteous covenant of God found in this providence and of His pleasure.
John the Baptist was God’s servant raised according to the providence of redemption in Jesus Christ. In other words, it was according to the will of God that John the Baptist was born in the house of Aaron to fulfill the office of the last High Priest on earth. Being born in the house of Aaron, John the Baptist ministered as the High Priest of all humankind. Here we need to examine his role in more detail and reach a definitive understanding. Only then can we properly believe in the ministry of Jesus Christ who came to save us from all the sins of this world. Although we often think about Jesus as the Savior of mankind, when it comes to Elijah to come, who is mentioned in Malachi chapter 4 in the Old Testament, we have actually been too indifferent.
To appreciate why it is so necessary for every Christian in these end times to understand the ministry of John the Baptist, we need to once again turn to the Word of God. We need to reconsider the relationship between the ministry of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. If there were no connection between John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ ministry, then we would have no reason to be interested in the ministry of John the Baptist anymore. However, there is a reason for us to take interest in John the Baptist. That’s because his ministry is indeed intimately related to the ministry of Jesus.
This is more true today because the hearts of most Christians still have not been completely washed from sin, and because of the need of Christians around the globe to really return to Jesus Christ who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. When it comes to the ministry of John the Baptist and that of Jesus, it’s absolutely indispensable for us to know and believe in the reason that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Only then can we understand the reason why Jesus shed His blood on the Cross for us after being baptized by John. John the Baptist was God’s messenger sent to this earth by God the Father almost at the same time as Jesus Christ His Son was sent. As the last High Priest of the age of the Old Testament, John fulfilled this ministry by baptizing Jesus.
That is why God said in Mark 1:2, “As it is written in the Prophets: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’” You should realize here that the writers of the Four Gospels in the New Testament all draw our attention to the ministry of John the Baptist first before speaking of Jesus Christ. Mark, a disciple of Jesus, first introduced the ministry of John the Baptist, which was passing the sins of the world to Jesus. That’s because Mark knew that John the Baptist had to pass all the sins of this world to Jesus by baptizing Him. It’s because John the Baptist was the very man who passed mankind’s sins to Jesus through baptism.
So quoting a passage from the Old Testament, Mark is saying that John the Baptist was God’s servant prepared beforehand according to His providence. The reason for this is only when we all understand the ministry of John the Baptist properly can we also properly understand and believe in the ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist was the messenger of God the Father sent to this earth six months prior to Jesus. In other words, he was God’s ambassador sent to pass the sins of this world to Jesus. Chosen by God among the High Priests of the Old Testament, John the Baptist was God’s servant who was to pass all the sins of this world to Jesus by baptizing Him, and to thus fulfill his priesthood.
Therefore, his ministry was a blessed one, and he was God’s servant who played an important role in fulfilling the righteousness of God. John the Baptist was the blessed one who, together with Jesus, was indispensable to fulfill all the righteousness of God (Matthew 3:15). He was, in other words, God’s servant who made it clearly known that Jesus would become the Savior of all sinners. Thus, we should not fail to notice the fact that all the writers of the Four Gospels introduced the ministry of John the Baptist prior to the ministry of Jesus. Before finding out about Jesus’ ministry, all of us must first realize the importance of the ministry of John the Baptist.
Both spiritually and actually, John the Baptist was God’s ambassador sent from the Kingdom of Heaven. It is through the ministry of John the Baptist, who came from the Kingdom of Heaven in obedience to the will of God, that we can understand the ministry of Jesus Christ properly. If we have the proper understanding of the ministry of John the Baptist, then we can also grasp easily that Jesus bore the sins of mankind once and for all by being baptized by John the Baptist, all to become our Savior. So we can see that the Four Gospels in the New Testament invariably write about the ministry of John the Baptist, God’s servant.
Why did God send John the Baptist, a descendant of Aaron, before sending Jesus at the beginning of the New Testament era? This shows us that just like Aaron the High Priest, who had passed all the yearly sins of the people of Israel to the scapegoat by laying his hands on its head in the age of the Old Testament, John the Baptist is the very man who passed all the sins of this world to Jesus once and for all in the age of the New Testament.
Leviticus 16:21 says, “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.” In the New Testament, the counterpart to this passage is the ministry of John the Baptist. And Jesus’ baptism denotes the importance of this ministry.
Let me illustrate this point with a secular example. Let’s say that a young man is drafted into military service and goes through all the training. He doesn’t become a good solider from the beginning, but later on. Likewise, Jesus did not take upon the sins of mankind from the moment He was born, but rather, He bore them at the age of 30 by being baptized by John the Baptist, and that is why He could become the true Savior. So it was because Jesus had shouldered the sins of the world that He could be crucified to atone for them. The Old Testament’s sacrificial animal became the offering of atonement by accepting the yearly sins of the Israelites all at once through the laying on of the High Priest’s hands. Likewise, John the Baptist fulfilled the important task of passing the sins of this world to the sacrificial offering called Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, by baptizing Him.
Referring to this Truth, Hebrews 10:1 says, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.” The Bible also says in 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.’” God the Father is saying that He passed all the sins of the world to His Son Jesus once and for all through John the Baptist. Each and every sin of this world was passed onto Jesus’ head through the baptism given by John the Baptist. Before He was crucified, Jesus had shouldered the sins of this world through the baptism He received from John the Baptist.
The New Testament Therefore Introduces the Ministry of John the Baptist before the Ministry of Jesus at the Beginning of Each of the Four Gospels
As written in the Old Testament, John the Baptist was a messenger of God. Today, however, there is a pronounced tendency for gospel preachers to ignore John the Baptist and his ministry. This is a great spiritual fallacy and an extremely grave problem. It is akin to ignoring the wisdom of God and His plan to give all humans everlasting life. However, you must recognize that only by fully understanding and believing in the ministry of John the Baptist can you realize that Jesus Christ is indeed the true Savior of mankind. If you minister without such knowledge, wisdom, and faith, you can never minister properly. You will only turn into a worldly religious practitioner that preaches only the shell while leaving out the gospel core of the water and the Spirit. Without teaching the role of John the Baptist to the congregation, no preacher can lead them to Jesus Christ who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. This is nothing more than giving an empty sermon.
In this light, most of today’s Christians professing to believe in Jesus are actually leading their lives of faith without realizing the gospel mystery of the water and the Spirit. This is why even as they believe in Jesus as their Savior, their sins have not disappeared and they still remain forever cursed. Such people’s faith is useless, and they are committing the fallacy of corrupting Christianity into a mere worldly religion when it is supposed to bring everlasting life. As a result, there are many Christians nowadays who say that they still have sin even as they profess to believe in Jesus. For these people, everyone is a sinner whether he believes in Jesus or not. Since both worldly people and Christians are always sinful in their spirits, there is nothing that sets them apart. If there is any difference at all, it is only that some sinners know their sins while others don’t; insofar as they are all living as sinners, they are the same. What’s the point of believing in Jesus then?
If you don’t know the gospel of the water and the Spirit and don’t believe in it, then you are no different from everyone else who is ignorant of the righteousness of God Jesus Christ has fulfilled. Do you have faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit right now? For those who now believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit, are they sinners or are they righteous people? Today’s gospel preachers say that anyone can go to Heaven just by believing in Jesus blindly, even without knowing anything about the gospel of the water and the Spirit. As a result, countless people still remain sinners. This is all because of spiritually blind leaders. It’s because they do not repent.
How can Christians today say that they believe in Jesus as their Savior without any knowledge of the gospel of the water and the Spirit? Jesus Himself bore witness of John the Baptist in the Bible, testifying, “John the Baptist came in the way of righteousness.” So given this, can anyone really obtain the washing of his sins just by saying that he believes in Jesus unconditionally? Can any minister who doesn’t know the ministry of John the Baptist really say that he knows and believes in Jesus properly? No, of course not. That’s why we must clearly understand the ministry of John the Baptist as well as the ministry of Jesus.
Matthew 21:32 says, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him.” Christianity today is only boasting of its long history. Since today’s Christian leaders do not actually know the ministry of John the Baptist in connection with the ministry of Jesus, even though they are trying hard to evangelize, those who are evangelized by them cannot bear the true fruit of salvation. It is heartbreaking to see that most Christians have no idea how their sins have all been blotted out, as it is written:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).
Let me tell you a story here. Long ago, in a remote village, there were two brothers who were completely illiterate. The older brother left his home village to find a job, but he had returned home for a holiday. The day before the Thanksgiving Day, he went on a hike with his younger brother to a nearby hill. As it was autumn, there were a lot of banners warning of forest fire. So the brothers came across one such banner hung between two electrical posts, with the sign reading “Beware of Fire” written in red against white background. The younger brother had seen how his big brother had returned home a completely changed man after a long absence, all dressed up and quite fashionable, and so he thought that the big brother would know what the banner said.
With this expectation he asked his brother, “What does the sign say?” The big brother in fact had no idea what the sign said, but since his little brother was asking him, he felt he had to give him an answer to save his face. So he looked around, and since the banner was hung on electrical posts, he said to his little brother, “The sign says ‘electrical post.’” Impressed, the little brother heaped praise on his big brother, saying, “Wow, you are so intelligent!”
But a little later on, they came across another banner. This time, the sign read “Beware of Forest Fire.” The little brother, of course, had no clue what it said since he was completely illiterate. So he asked his big brother again, “What does this sign say?” The big brother had given his little brother some concocted answer, but now the little brother was asking him once again. So he thought about what he should say. He then figured that this sign had one more word than the previous one, and so he said, “The sign reads ‘another electrical post.’” Once again, the little brother was impressed.
Continuing on with their walk, they talked about what had been happening in their lives while they were apart, sharing their moments of joy and sadness. But they came across yet another sign. It read this time: “Watch out for Forest Fire.” So the little brother asked again about the sign, saying, “What does this sign say?” The big brother then thought about this and said, “It says ‘one more electrical post.”
They kept on hiking. As they continued on, they came across yet another sign. This time it read, “Be Very Careful of Forest Fire.” So the little brother asked one more time, “What does this banner say?” The big brother mulled over this and then said, “It says, ‘more and more electrical posts.’” Again, the little brother was impressed with his brother and said to him, “You are so knowledgeable! I want you to take me with you when you leave home!”
Resuming their walk, they came across one more sign that had even more letters. It said, “Take Another Look at the Fire You’ve Just Put Out.” So the little brother asked again, “What does the sign say this time?” All the previous answers had revolved around electrical posts, and so what do you suppose the big brother said this time? He said, “It says, ‘This is yet another electrical post.’” So in this way, the big brother managed to impress his little brother.
Among those preaching the gospel today, there also are many people who are just like this big brother in our story. Even though they don’t know exactly how Jesus shouldered their sins, they still insist blindly that since God loves them and sacrificed Himself for them, they have been saved just by believing in Jesus’ Cross. But this is completely wrong. You can understand a sign only if you know its letters and its meaning. We can reach a correct understanding of the gospel of the water and the Spirit only when we have correct knowledge of John the Baptist. Today, we can believe in Jesus through John the Baptist, that is, through the witness of John the Baptist as it is written in the Scriptures. John bore witness of who Jesus was, what sins He bore, how He bore them, how He was the Son of God, and how He shouldered all our sins. The Apostle John and John the Baptist are not the same person. The Apostle John is a disciple of Jesus while John the Baptist is a messenger of God, the representative of mankind, a descendant of Aaron, the last prophet of the human race and its last High Priest.
John the Baptist Is a Servant of God Sent by the Father
It’s written in John 1:6-7: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.” The Apostle John testifies here that there was a man sent from God named John, and that it is through his witness that we believe in Jesus Christ. Without the witness of John the Baptist mentioned in John 1:7, how else could you and I have believed in Jesus properly? Given the fact that we’ve never seen Jesus, and that we are all from different cultural, national, and religious backgrounds, how could we have believed in Jesus as our Savior unless we knew the ministry fulfilled by John the Baptist? If we had not known when exactly our sins were passed onto Jesus, if John the Baptist had not testified that he passed the sins of the world along with our own sins to Jesus, then how could we have believed in Jesus as the Savior? Without John the Baptist, the pioneer of the gospel, could we have believed in Jesus as our Savior? Isn’t it only when we examine the foundation of God’s plan of salvation that we can really find out whether Jesus Christ is indeed our Savior or not? Isn’t it only when we know exactly when, how, and through whom your sins and mine were passed onto Jesus that we can really believe in Him? Isn’t this compelling enough?
My fellow believers, Christians who already believe in Jesus must also grasp the ministry of John the Baptist. To be a village leader, one must be literate. Making a leader out of an illiterate person only spells trouble. Not only is this person alone in trouble, but the whole village also suffers as a result.
My fellow believers, only when you understand the ministry of John the Baptist sent by God can you truly be saved from sin. You must realize that when you believe in Jesus, when you accept and believe that He has become your Savior, you yourself can be saved and your salvation is not rendered obsolete. When we have such faith, we can testify with our own lips that Jesus has indeed saved us from all sins because He loves us all. Don’t you agree?
Just as knowledge is imperative to do anything, you must realize that John the Baptist came by the way of righteousness, and you must realize that Jesus bore our sins once for all through the baptism He received from John. Isn’t it only then that we believe in Jesus as our Savior? John the Baptist is the servant of God who passed the sins of this world to Jesus, and he is the last High Priest of the age of the Old Testament.
We should all ruminate on the ministry of John the Baptist in connection with the ministry of Jesus Christ, understand this interrelationship, and make up our minds to believe in Him.