The Greatest Prophet (Part 3)

   A Type of The End-Time Church
   by Jeannette Haley

      Here we go again, facing another New Year with all of its up’s and down’s of personal, local, and national challenges. Every challenge, every crisis, and every situation that impacts our lives will, in some way, require a decision on our part. Will we make the right decision in any given circumstance that lines up with the Word of God, the character of God, and the will and ways of God, or will we be content to settle for our own conclusions and take on a matter, thus trusting in our own understanding? At this crucial junction in world history where we see biblical prophecy fulfilled on a daily basis, our very lives, either physical and spiritual, or both, may very well depend on our faith in God, along with His wisdom and guidance through the Holy Spirit. In other words, do we really know Him? Concerning the antichrist spirit at work in the world, and the soon-to-be revealed “son of perdition,” and how God’s people need to be strong, Daniel gives us this insight,” And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.” (Daniel 11:32, 33.)

       We must not forget that God has not left us alone to struggle through whatever trials, temptations or tribulations come our way. There is no doubt that all of us, in this life, including believers, will experience the “dark night of the soul” where all seems hopeless and lost, where loneliness saps the will to live, where pain and suffering seem endless, the heart is broken through bereavement, loss and waves of sorrow, and where even God appears to have withdrawn His presence. In spite of the brutal crushing and depression a mortal soul can experience, yet it remains true that “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” Deuteronomy 33:27a. With King David, we can be assured, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock” Psalm 27:5. We know that that rock is Christ, the great I AM.

      Therefore, we who are blest to own the written Word of God (a “real” Bible, not a modern polluted paraphrase and perverted so-called “version”) that we can hold in our hands and read, possess a priceless treasure. Within this eternal treasure we discover prophecies that are true and unchangeable concerning the times in which we live: the parables of Jesus that, while seemingly simple on the surface, are inexhaustible in their ability to give us a continual spiritual feast of eternal truths and personal applications; examples given for us in the Old Testament, and the testimonies, witness and examples of that “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have gone on before us, (even those martyrs of the past two thousand years) and wonderful “types” in which we can study and glean invaluable insights and revelations that impart life to our souls, sustenance for our spirits, and encouragement to our weary minds. I believe that a study of John the Baptist’s life is one such “type” that God has given to us of the end-times Church.

      When John the Baptist was born, “the hand of the Lord was with him” Luke 1:66b. The hand of the Lord was with him because God had prepared John even within his mother’s womb (as Zacharias prophesied) to be “called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” Luke 1:76-80. As we examine this prophecy closely, we can see the parallels between John’s calling and the commission of the Church.

      First to consider is that the hand of the Lord was with him, just as the Lord has been with, and in, His church from its inception. As Christians, we need to remind ourselves that we are His Church, members of the Body of Christ. The true Church of Jesus Christ is not an institution, a building, a religious system, or a set of doctrines. The Church is made up of individual believers, worldwide, who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and who have been washed from their sins by His blood shed on the cross.

      Jesus told Peter, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18b. The end-days Church is, will be, and has been, for the past two-thousand years greatly assaulted and persecuted by hell itself. Just as Herod’s continual iniquities wearied the soul of the imprisoned John the Baptist, so too shall the saints of the Most High be wearied in the end days by the world leader of whom Daniel wrote, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” Daniel 7:25.  (Note: This is a period of 42 months.)

“even from his mother’s womb”;) lived in the wilderness. The wilderness represents many things for the individual believer, as well as for the Church as a whole. The wilderness for a believer is a time of separation from the world and all it has to offer. The Spirit will, in a sense, lead God’s people into a time of being in the “wilderness” to bring about separation from what others consider to be a “normal” life. Usually this wilderness experience is more emotional, mental, and spiritual than an actual physical separation; however, it is a time of drawing apart unto God to gain His perspective, learn to hear His voice, and be prepared for service (ministry).

      Believers who comprise the end-time Church will likewise be separated unto the Lord through the fires of intense persecution. Like John, there will be no wavering, no looking back, no compromise with the god of this world (Satan) or the mark of the beast (antichrist), and no compromise with the flesh or the devil. This remnant Church, in spite of growing weary with the prevailing godless insanity, will nevertheless remain steady, established, strong and bold in the Holy Spirit. As John the Baptist went before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” Luke 1:17, so too shall the end-time Church prepare those, who have ears to hear, for the glorious return of the Lord. Just as John went before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, by giving knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, so we who are called to be the “salt and the light,” and to occupy until He comes, and to be about our Father’s business in this sin sick world. At this point, I need to make it clear that we are not going to “prepare” this world by setting up the Kingdom of God on earth so that Christ can return (as many falsely teach) but, rather, we are to be faithful witnesses of the Gospel as co-laborers with Christ in the harvest field of the world. The fact is, Jesus is returning at a time when most of the world’s inhabitants do not expect Him to come, and whether people are ready for Him or not.

      It is well known that John was in every way one of a kind. His personal appearance and strange diet of locusts and wild honey were far from the norm. His ministry was also unique. John was truly “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” Luke 3:4. As we read about John’s preaching to the multitudes, we are struck by the fact that he was direct, blunt, bold, and fearless. To an entire multitude that came to be baptized of him, he thundered, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance…” Luke 3:7b-8a. What about the generation of vipers that surround us today? Do those of us who make up the end-time Church have the courage to stand up and confront them of their gross immorality, wicked ways, evil imaginations, and godlessness because the day of His wrath draws near? Do we have what it takes to unflinchingly declare, ? God is calling men and women everywhere to repent before it is too late, before “the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand” Revelation 6:17?

      John was indeed a prophet, and more. To me he was a great evangelist, one who could not be intimidated, bribed, shamed, persuaded, or silenced. John would never fall into the trap of “peace at any price” by remaining silent when there was sin in the camp, for by doing so, he would be partaking of other men’s sins by refusing to confront them. John, like Jesus, knew that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. He was God’s man for the hour, preparing the way of the Lord. John knew that any compromise, however slight, would lead to disaster.

      As for the Church, how can we prepare people for the Lord when we are so busy “loving them into hell” because we can’t bear to confront them about their sin? How can people be prepared to face the Great Judge with sin in their lives, in word, thought, and deed? As Christians in these evil and perilous times, we can be quick to lament and point out the wickedness of the world around us that is comparable to the days of Noah. However, when it comes to sin in the lives of those we know and love who profess to know Christ, we tend to ignore it and hope it goes away. The question is, is this really the type of love that God requires in our lives? The love that God requires is committed to others to ensure that they are reconciled to God through repentance, gaining Christ, and assured of heaven. Jesus said that He is returning for a Church without sin, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:27. Just as John prepared the people for the Lord through repentance of sin and baptism unto righteousness, so too must we, who bear Christ’s name, prepare people for His appearing the second time through conversion to righteousness and holy living.

      Our witness of Jesus and who He is must be clear, as was John’s. John declared to the people, Only God can forgive sin, and the people knew it. Therefore, John was declaring the divinity of Jesus. John also said, “This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me” John 1:30. In our post modern churches the message of who Jesus is, why He came, and the necessity of the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation is blurred at best, and diminished in its importance at worst. Whenever we have visited churches, the first thing we look for is Jesus. Who or what is being exalted? If the church and it’s plethora of programs, ear-tickling messages and teachings, along with fleshly music, entertainment, and so forth takes center stage, we judge it as a man-centered church with Jesus merely tacked on. Jesus said to feed His lambs and sheep, not entertain them, amuse them, pamper them, flatter them, exalt them in their sin, or make them feel good about themselves. No! A thousand times NO! He said to FEED THEM. Feed them what? Feed them HIS WORD, rightly divided, in Spirit and in Truth! How can the end-times Church be prepared for what is to come prior to Christ’s return if all they have been fed is sugar-coated half-truths, watered down milk (no meat whatsoever), unholy forms of “worship,” and syrupy self love? Jesus came to save us from our sin, not save us in our sin. Jesus made it clear that His followers must be overcomers in this life in order to gain the next. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of lifee, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” Revelation 3:5. [Emphasis added.]

      John the Baptist is a powerful example of a true disciple of Jesus Christ and of the true bride of Christ. When the time came for his followers to become followers of Jesus (which is what he prepared them for) he humbly declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30. John knew that his mission was being fulfilled as people left him to follow Jesus. John was, unlike those who “wannabe a somebody” of today, a great prophet because he had only one purpose, and that was to exalt Christ. He was not here to exercise his “religious muscle” and gain a big following, or build a huge mega-church where he could become rich and famous. Unlike the myriad of false prophets and so-called “spiritual leaders” today who are ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing, John rejoiced in being God’s instrument because he rejoiced in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Likewise, the end-time Church is here for the purpose of pointing men to Christ, not to this or that church, movement, leader, or the latest so-called “Christian fad.” The end-time Church will also decrease through persecution. Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. The root meaning of the word “remain” is “survive.”

      Sadly, many in the Christian realm criticize and judge John the Baptist for his questioning of whether Jesus was the one that should come. John was the type of person that seeks for proof. Such were Thomas, King David, Nehemiah, and Peter. Jesus understood that. Also, John needed to know that he had run his course, finished his race, completed his mission, and that it was indeed God’s timing to take him Home so that he could depart in peace. In Luke chapter 7 Jesus outlined what a great prophet John was.

      Before we jump on the bandwagon to criticize John the Baptist, let us consider what the end-days Church has faced, and is facing. Persecuted Christians who have been imprisoned, beaten, and tortured for their faith can experience times of depression and fear. After all, we are only human, and we all have our down times. It’s easy to be brave and confident in how we would handle different situations when sitting in the warm comfort of our homes, reading statistics in Voice of the Martyrs reports, and other true-life testimonies. Therefore, let us remember John’s question, and Jesus’ answer so that we, too, will be able to stand steadfast in faith and confidence until we “go” or He comes. We all know that this great man of God was beheaded for his uncompromising stand for truth and godliness. Likewise, many saints in the last days will be beheaded for their faith. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” Revelation 20:4, 5.

      Thus, John the Baptist’s martyrdom is also a “type” of what many Christians in these end times will experience as they stand strong against the rising tide of filth and perversion. John steadfastly stood against the iniquities (moral deviation) of King Herod and Herodias, his brother’s wife. It is interesting to note that “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly” Mark 6:20. The problem was, Herod was overcome with his own lust and foolishness which cost John his head. By comparison, can it be said by those who stand on the outside and observe the end-times Church that she is as faithful to prepare people for the Lord’s coming through the preaching of repentance, righteousness, and holiness in one’s personal life as was John? Concerning holiness, the writer to the Hebrews warns, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14. [Emphasis added.]

      In conclusion, John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Lord, his ministry was to preach repentance, and his message was to introduce Jesus as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. May God help those who are truly born again of His Spirit to embrace the challenge of being faithful to do likewise until that great day when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, returns for His Church. Amen.