A Prophet in the Wilderness #5

Friday, June 13, 2014

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1,2 KJV).

Why is John the Baptist “preaching in the wilderness?”

John the Baptist’s message to Israel was simple, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (today’s Scripture). Israel was to “repent”—change her mind about JEHOVAH, to remember God’s covenant with her, to acknowledge her failure to keep that covenant, to quit thinking like the Gentiles and to stop serving Satan and his evil world system. Israel’s confession of sins in the following verses was to acknowledge her breaking the Old Covenant, Law (see Leviticus 26:40-46). John’s water baptism was the means whereby Israel was cleansed of her idolatry, equipping her to become JEHOVAH’S kingdom of priests (Ezekiel 36:25; cf. Exodus 19:5,6).

Israel’s conversion was urgent: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand [near]” (today’s Scripture). In the near future, Jesus Christ would be baptized of John, thus manifesting Himself as Israel’s Messiah-King (John 1:31). Israel’s long-promised kingdom (foretold through the Old Testament prophets) was soon to be established.

Most of Israel’s priests were entangled in spiritual error, so John’s ministry was out in the wilderness, far from the Temple, far-removed from Satan’s religious system. This arrangement ensured John’s converts would be pure, untainted by the evil world system that had deceived Israel previously. God’s people would hear God the Father’s message about His coming Son and Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, from John the Baptist (see John 1:6-34)—it was a message unadulterated by Israel’s satanically-inspired priesthood.

The lesson we can take from this is simple: the same pagan religious system that gripped Israel still pervades Christendom, so we do not appeal to clergymen, denominational teaching-bodies, preachers, catechisms, creeds, seminarians, bulls, et cetera. We should go to the Apostle Paul (Romans through Philemon) to learn what God has to say to us Gentiles, just as the nation Israel was to go to John the Baptist to learn what God had to say to them. Thus, we will be a pure agency for the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:1-33).