|Volume 21 Number 1 January 2019||
John the Baptist
John the Baptist is an extremely significant biblical character for a number of reasons. First of all, he represents the first message from God to His people in about 400 years, going back to the return from exile. A lot happened between Malachi and the time John came on the scene, especially the unfolding of the prophecies in Daniel, but God had no new messages for His people during that time. Secondly, this messenger from God was in fulfillment of prophecy in at least two ways. Isaiah said that one would come and be a voice in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3), and Malachi said that Elijah would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:14). Finally, the content of John’s message revolved around two things: the kingdom of God was near (Matthew 3:2) and that Jerusalem’s judgment was fast approaching (Matthew 3:7-12). When Jesus began His ministry, He preached the same truths as John, building on the foundation that John laid, all of which was based in Scripture.
This is a profound statement made by the inspired writer of Ecclesiastes 9:5. We know that death is inevitable. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” No doubt, millions viewed the funeral services of the late George H.W. Bush, our 41st President. Surely, many were moved emotionally, especially with the eulogy given by his son, George W. Bush, the former 43rd President. While the average lifespan of the Presidents of the United States has been approximately 71 years, President Bush lived to be 94-years-old. He lived a full life of service for his country, but he had one thing in common with all of mankind—he died.
In this life, men are often separated from each other due to such factors as race, economics, social and educational status, but there is a common denominator which unites all men, and that is the grim reaper called death. Death is no respecter of persons. It matters not whether one is young or old, rich or poor, a king or a peasant, popular or unpopular; death eventually comes to every man and woman. Moses, in referring to the rebellious Israelites, stated, “If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all, then the Lord has not sent me.” In this verse Moses alluded to what is common to all men—death. Even men who lived in the infancy of the human race and who lived long upon the earth had one thing in common—they died. It is said of Methuselah, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died” (Genesis 5:27). The Psalmist asked, “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:48). It was David who said to his dear friend Jonathan, “…But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:3). Life is so precious, frail and uncertain. Death on the other hand is ever present.
In death it is immaterial whether one is buried in a coffin of gold or wood; whether there is much pomp and ceremony, or just a few words uttered by a friend. The most important thing to be considered is whether or not the deceased person was a child of God. In fact, that is all that really matters - for eternity!
Therefore, knowing neither the day nor the hour when Christ shall return again, or when death shall come, it behooves each one of us to set our houses in order—that is, to give our lives completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Christ Jesus that we have salvation and eternal life (2 Timothy 2:10; 1 John 5:11, 12). God “desires that all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He gave His only begotten Son to die for the world so that we could be saved (John 3:16-17). As a penitent believer, a person should be baptized into Jesus Christ for remission of sins (Acts 2:36-38; Galatians 3:26-27). As a disciple of the Lord, living faithfully the Christian life, Heaven will be our eternal home (Matthew 25:34; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). By God’s infinite grace, the sting of death will be removed and victory over the grave will be experienced by the children of God (1 Corinthians 15:54-58).