YOU KNOW, GOD HAS HIS RULES, BUT HE APPARENTLY CAN MAKE EXCEPTIONS TO THEM and do some very unusual things whenever He wants to. So here we have John the Baptist before he was born, filled with the Holy Ghost! Could we say that he didn't have Jesus? With man it is impossible, but with God nothing shall be impossible! (Mt.19:26 ; Mk.10:27 .) So back to the story, PTL! "And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb." Now we're going to have some proof of this in a few minutes, and we'll have some evidence of the fact that he was filled with the Holy Ghost, while still in his mother's womb!
"AND MANY OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL SHALL HE TURN TO THE LORD THEIR GOD." What was his ministry? -- Turning God's children to the Lord! "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias" -- that's the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elijah -- "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."
(QUESTION: IS THERE ANY REASON WHY THE LORD SAID HE SHALL DRINK NEITHER WINE NOR STRONG DRINK?) In several cases in the Bible it was a sign of utter dedication. The children of Rechab were commanded and it was a sign of their obedience to the Lord. Jesus Himself drank wine, which in His case apparently was not required. But evidently it was simply a sign, it was a part of the sign, because it was a rare thing in those days for anybody not to drink wine. It was about the only safe thing there was to drink. the water was not always safe, like water in Mexico and Southern countries. As I told you when my mother was in Europe, the guides advised them not to drink the local water in certain places, that the only safe thing there to drink was wine because the water sometimes made them sick. But this was an exceptional thing, every time that abstaining from wine was commanded or predicted.
NOW THE IMPORTANT PART ABOUT THIS WAS THAT HE SHALL BE GREAT IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD; he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost from His mother's womb; and now what was his ministry to be? -- 17th verse. (Staff member: Prepare the way of the Lord.) "He shall go before Him." Who came first? John the Baptist or Jesus? (Staff member: John the Baptist.) Both of their births were announced ahead of time, both of their births were predicted ahead of time, both of their births were really miraculous. John was six months older than Jesus. They were literally cousins and God had chosen that John was to do what for his cousin Jesus? To prepare the way, to go before Him.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN, "IN THE SPIRIT and THE POWER OF ELIJAH"? Elijah was a mighty man of God, a very courageous man of God who, by the way, bucked the System. "In the spirit and the power of Elijah." What spirit and power was that? -- The Spirit and power of God! In other words, John the Baptist was supposed to be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb; he was to have the spirit and power of Elijah.
JESUS LATER SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, THAT "IF YOU WILL RECEIVE IT, THIS IS ELIJAH WHICH WAS FOR TO COME." (Mt. 11:14 .) Because the prophets of old had testified that before that great and notable day of Lord should come, that Elijah should come first to prepare the way of the Lord. (Mal.4:5 .) Now this was prophesied after Elijah was long gone and dead. So because of their interpretation of this, they thought Elijah was going to be raised from the dead and appear to them again just before the Messiah was to come and to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.
THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO STILL BELIEVE THAT ELIJAH IS YET TO COME TO PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, and that one of the two witnesses of Revelation will be Elijah. Personally, I think Jesus made it very clear and very plain, and even right in this passage it said again that John the Baptist was that Elijah which was for to come. John the Baptist was the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord. Anybody have that reference? (Aaron: Matthew 11:14: "And if you will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come.") Let's turn to that for a minute, because that has something else very interesting to say in that passage about John's ministry.
BEGINNING WITH 11:7: "WHAT WENT YE OUT INTO THE WILDERNESS TO SEE?" -- He's talking to the multitudes concerning John -- "a reed shaken with the wind?" Some little preacher preaching his pious pulpit platitudes from behind some pulpit? Huh? A little rustling of the wind in the wind in the reeds? Is that what they went out to see? Let me tell you something, they went out to see a tornado! They went out to see a hurricane for God! Apparently John was like a wild man! They went out to see him burn!
APPARENTLY ALMOST FROM THE VERY BEGINNING JOHN LIVED IN THE WILDERNESS, IN THE DESERT. He didn't go to anybody's Bible college, he didn't go to anybody's seminary, he didn't go to anybody's denomination or the Sanhedrin or get an ordination from man. Until his ministry began, he lived out in the wilderness, apparently alone with God. Oh, there might have been a few followers with him, who knows? We don't know. Like David in the cave of Adullam. And he didn't start his ministry to announce the coming of the Lord until Jesus was about to begin His ministry and be baptised of John, then John began his ministry preparing the way of the Lord.
NOW JESUS LATER SAID, "WHAT DID YOU GO TO SEE? A MAN CLOTHED IN SOFT RAIMENT? Behold they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses!" -- The usual preacher all dressed up in his nice pretty clothes? The usual priest or member of the Sanhedrin, is that what they went to see? The usual Scribes and Pharisees? They were a dime a dozen, like preachers today! They don't create any sensation when they walk down the street! But if they walked down the street in a camel's hair, rough-looking toga of some kind, with probably pretty wild hair and beard, people would take another look! I'm sure they didn't have any barbers out there in the wilderness or the desert and he probably had a nice husky beard! From all the artists' conceptions of him, he was a pretty wild-looking character, probably bare-footed or sandal-shod and he probably attracted some attention! When he walked down the street, people took another look!
ONLY HE DIDN'T WALK DOWN THE STREET, HE STAYED OUT THERE ON THE BANKS OF THE JORDAN IN THE WILDERNESS and THE PEOPLE CAME OUT TO SEE HIM! How about that? There must have been something very unusual about him. He wasn't working any miracles, as far as we know. We know that he predicted a few things and he made one condemnation that lost his head! He told off the king, bawled him out for marrying his brother's wife, and that eventually cost him out for marrying his brother's wife, and that eventually cost him his head. He rebuked the government, in other words, he told off the president. How about that? And according to history, the president or the king of that day, Herod, had a great deal of respect for him, he didn't want to throw him in prison and he finally didn't want to cut off his head. It just shows you how the members of the System are bound by the System.
SO, "WHAT WENT YE OUT FOR TO SEE? A PROPHET?" What did they go to see? The average preacher? The average priest? No! They went to see a prophet! Now, what was John noted for? His miracles? His signs? His wonders? His wonders? Maybe a little bit for his odd looks, his odd dress, his odd appearance, but he was noted most of all for his message, that he was a prophet! He was noted most of all for what he was proclaiming, what he was saying. They came out for to see a prophet! -- Not some little run-of-the-mill preacher, not some little run-of-the-mill robot of the System!
"AND FROM THE DAYS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST UNTIL NOW THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN SUFFERETH VIOLENCE, and THE VIOLENT TAKE IT BY FORCE!" "The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence!" -- It sounds as though He's talking about those who have suffered for the Kingdom of Heaven, as John did. "And the violent take it by force." A lot of people get violent and want to persecute us. Some have different ways of interpreting this passage. Some interpret it to mean that as John was persecuted and killed by force, speaking of persecution. Kingdom of God by violence, by force, speaking of persecution.
BUT THERE'S ONE SCHOOL OF THOUGHT ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THIS VERSE WHICH IS VERY INTERESTING, meaning that John the Baptist was a rather violent man with a rather violent ministry, and that those who really take the Kingdom sometimes have to do it by force, by storm, somewhat violently, maybe yelling in department stores and churches! There have been a number of prophecies in our midst saying that our ministry was like that of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the coming of the Lord.
"FOR ALL THE PROPHETS and THE LAW PROPHESIED UNTIL JOHN, and if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come." -- John! "He that hath ears to hear let him hear!" -- You know, this particular phrase is not used very often in the Gospels, although it's used very much in the Book of Revelation, but Jesus uses it here. Now why does He use it so often in the Book of Revelation? The Book of Revelation is a pretty complicated book with a lot of hidden meanings. And Jesus is as good as saying in this very passage here where He's talking that there's a meaning here that you may not get unless you listen carefully! And the meaning here, I think, is clear, that John the Baptist was that Elijah which was for to come, because Jesus said so! "This is Elijah which was for to come." Not just will be or this was, but "this is", He's saying. John the Baptist and his ministry was the Elijah which He was speaking of which was for to come before the coming of the Lord.
BUT THE LORD HAS SPOKEN TO US MANY TIMES THAT WE TODAY, THIS GROUP, LIKE JOHN BAPTIST, ARE ALSO PREPARING THE WAY OF THE LORD, turning the hearts of the people to the Lord, preparing the way of the Lord, warning them that Jesus is coming soon, warning them that the judgements are coming soon, warning them that the end is nigh and that now is the time to repent and turn unto the Lord! Hasn't that been your ministry? Hasn't that been your message? Hasn't that been your cry? Haven't those been your prophecies? So like John the Baptist, you're preparing the way of the Lord! PG!
ALL RIGHT, BACK TO OUR CHRISTMAS STORY! -- The prophecy which the angel was making about John the Baptist was what brought all of this on in the first chapter of Luke, and we were going through of this on in the first chapter of Luke, and we were going through the 17th verse, "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children." I wonder how successful John was at that? We haven't been very successful along that line. How are you doing with your father, Barbara? How you doing with your father, Becky? It's a little problem, turning the hearts of the fathers to the children! So a part of our ministry is to try to turn the hearts of the fathers, the parents, to the children. But apparently it must be a difficult ministry because it was one of the ministries of John the Baptist, to try to turn the hearts of the parents to their children, think of that, a part of his ministry! This guy had a lot of tough jobs, let me tell you! -- Looking like a wild man, screaming out in the wilderness like a wild man, behaving like a prophet and trying to turn the hearts of the parents to their children!
(JETH: MAYBE THEN HIS MINISTRY WAS TO THE CHILDREN, THE YOUTH.) That could be! Jeth has a thought there, that largely his ministry, therefore, must have been the youth, trying to get the fathers, the parents, on the youth's side.
"AND THE DISOBEDIENT TO THE WISDOM OF THE JUST." Wow! Who's the major body of disobedient people you know today? -- The (system) church! Well, you can't expect much of the ungodly unsaved World, can you? You wouldn't expect them to obey. But what about the people who are supposed to be obeying, the church? And this is what was said of him, and in another passage, "to turn Israel to the Lord." Israel was whom? -- A type of the church. It was the church of his day. Israel was the church of that day.
SO A LARGE PART OF OUR MINISTRY HAS BEEN TO TRY TO DO WHAT? (Staff member: To get the church to obey.) They say we attack'm, well, in a way we do. They say we go there to disrupt and to disturb. We don't intentionally go there to disrupt and disturb. If they will behave, and if they will be obedient, and if they will follow the Lord, it won't disrupt or disturb them. The only thing that disturbs them is the fact that when they hear your message, they know they're not obeying it! That's what disturbs them! The only thing that disrupts is the fact that you're preaching something that is contrary to what they're doing and that disrupts what they're doing, and they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing! You're disrupting their usual pattern; you're disrupting their conformity and their traditionalism and their ceremonialism and you're trying to get them to do the will of God!
SO THAT'S NOT AN EASY JOB "TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE DISOBEDIENT TO THE WISDOM OF THE JUST." What do you think the wisdom of the just is? (Staff member: The truth.) Amen, it's right here. (Taps Bible.) Praise God? "And to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Would you say the church of Jesus Christ in general is prepared for the coming of Lord today? I don't think in any time in history it's been so unprepared! I don't think any time in history has the church been less prepared and really less looking for His coming. Oh, they talk a lot about it, they say a lot about it: "Oh, if Jesus would just come today!" But they are living and they are building as though they expected to live here forever!
WHAT CHRISTIANS DO YOU KNOW OF THAT ARE LIVING AS THOUGH THEY REALLY EXPECTED THE LORD TO COME BACK AT ANY TIME? They're all proclaiming it, but most of them won't believe our message, that the Antichrist and the Tribulation are going to come first. "Oh no no no, that's wrong! He's going to come any minute! Jesus is coming right now, any day!" But how are they living? They're not living like they expect Him to come back any minute. They don't even live like they expect Him to come when we think He's going to come. They live as though the never expected Him to come back for a hundred or a thousand years! God help us! They're not preparing! They're not ready! They're not prepared for the Lord, much less the Antichrist!
"AND ZACHARIAS SAID UNTO THE ANGEL, WHEREBY SHALL I KNOW THIS? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years." "Come on Lord, who're ya kidding? We can't have children now!" Ha! "And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings." He's saying, "Listen man! Whaddya think this is? I'm an angel! Take a look! -- You don't even believe me?" Ha! "And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season."
DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME AN ANGEL COULD APPEAR TO YOU and TALK TO YOU and YOU WOULDN'T EVEN BELIEVE IT? Jesus Christ appeared unto many people and talked to them personally and they didn't believe it! And the church says today "Oh yes, but if He would come today, oh, how wonderful that would be and I would believe it!" Baloney! They don't believe this! "Neither would they believe though one should come back from the dead!" (Lk.16:31 .)
"AND THE PEOPLE WAITED FOR ZACHARIAS, and MARVELLED THAT HE TARRIED SO LONG IN THE TEMPLE. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the Temple: for he beckoned them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house." Did he quit working because he couldn't talk? Did he stop working for the Lord? He kept on working, doing the best he could. (Continued in part 3)
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