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The Coming of John the Baptist

By Jeffery Barron

Text

Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1-6, 4:5-6

Introduction

We will explore the prophetic scriptures in the Old Testament concerning the coming of John the Baptist and the fulfillment in the New Testament. John is often referred to as the forerunner of Jesus Christ.

Prophecy of Isaiah

"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).

Isaiah was God's prophet during the events recorded in 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings. This was a time of the Divided Kingdom with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Isaiah is best known for his prophesies of the coming Messiah.

Isaiah 40:3 not only speaks of the coming Messiah, but also the messenger that would come to prepare the way for the Messiah.

  • Crieth in the wilderness
  • Prepare ye the way of the Lord
  • Make straight in the desert a highway for our God

Prophecy of Malachi

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 3:1).

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6).

Malachi was God's prophet during the events recorded in Nehemiah. Israel has returned to their homeland after being in captivity for 70 years (Assyrian, Babylonian, and finally Persian). The Book of Ezra gives a historical account of the rebuilding of the Temple, and the Book of Nehemiah gives a historical account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

The name Malachi comes from the same Hebrew word as "messenger" in Malachi 3:1. In fact, the messenger will be one of the key attributes of the one to prepare the way.

  • My messenger
  • Prepare the way before me
  • I will send you Elijah the prophet
  • Turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and children to their fathers

Isaiah and Malachi's Prophesies Fulfilled in the New Testament

The following scriptures will show the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies given by both Isaiah and Malachi.

Matthew 3:1-6

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

These verses are Matthew's commentary of the events concerning John the Baptist.

  • Crying in the wilderness
  • Prepare ye the way of the Lord
  • Make the paths straight

Mark 1:2-4

2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

These verses are Mark's commentary of the events concerning John the Baptist.

  • My Messenger
  • Prepare the way
  • Crying in the wilderness
  • Prepare ye the way of the Lord
  • Make the paths straight

Luke 3:1-4

1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

These verses are Luks's commentary of the events concerning John the Baptist. "Esaias" the prophet is the Greek form of the name "Isaiah" from the Hebrew.

  • Crying in the wilderness
  • Prepare the way of the Lord
  • Make paths straight

John 1:19-28

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

The verses in John take a different approach than the commentaries of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John actually records the events as they happened. The priests and Levites approached John and asked the following questions (Note: There is irony here with the Levites and priests coming to ask questions. A large portion of Malachi's message is directed towards the priests and Levites after Israel's captivity):

The questions below are asked by the Levites and priests, and John the Baptist provides the answers.

  • Question: Who are you?
  • Answer: I am not the Christ.

John knew that he was to prepare the way for the Lord and that he was not the coming Messiah. John the Baptist's message was "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).

  • Question: Are you Elias (the Greek form of Elijah)?
  • Answer: I am not.

There have been many questions raised as to the reason why John answered "No" to this question. It is clear that John knew of the prophecy of Isaiah, but did he know about the prophecy of Malachi?

  • Question: Are you a prophet?
  • Answer: No.

Jesus speaks about this question. More to come.

  • Question: Who are you? How do you describe yourself?
  • Answer: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias

This was the best response John could have to describe himself. He quoted Isaiah 40:3. Again, "Esaias" is the Greek form of Isaiah.

Matthew 11:1-15

1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Jesus had given the twelve disciples instructions concerning their work as the Lord's first church in chapter 10. Now, John the Baptist (currently in jail) sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus a question.

  • Question: Are you the one that I have been expecting to come or should we look for another?
  • Answer: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Perhaps you are thinking that a simple "Yes" would have been sufficient. However, Jesus actually gave more information as a demonstration of the fact that He was the one that John was looking for.

After John's messengers leave, Jesus begins to speak to His disciples about John the Baptist. Notice his descriptions of John the Baptist (all quotes from Malachi).

  • My Messenger for thy face
  • Prepare thy way before thee
  • This is Elias (Greek form of Elijah)

Luke 1:13-17

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him 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.

The message from Gabriel, the angel of God, to Zacharias said that John would come "in the spirit and power of Elias" (Luke 1:17) and, therefore, made the connection to Malachi 4. Notice that Gabriel did not say that John would be Elijah but in the spirit and power of Elijah. Some say that John the Baptist was literally the same Elijah from the Old Testament since the prophet Elijah was taken by God in a chariot of fire and did not die (2 Kings 2:11). John said that he was NOT Elijah when the question was asked by the Levites and priests (John 1:21). Then, Jesus said that John was Elijah, but added that he was the one that Malachi had talked about and did not make a connection to Elijah the prophet (Matthew 11:14). Also, when Jesus and his disciples went up to the Mount of Transfiguration, "there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17:3). Then, when they came down from the mountain, Jesus shared more information about John the Baptist.

Matthew 17:10-13

10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Jesus Christ tells his disciples that the prophecy of Elijah coming was fulfilled in John the Baptist.

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