What can the testimony and persecution of John the Baptist tell us about the end-times?
When John saw Jesus, he openly declared Him as the Lamb of God. He testified to those listening how it was revealed to him by a Voice that the Holy Spirit would descend upon the Son of God.
Last-day prophets will openly declare Jesus as the Messiah. They will express no doubt about His identity as the Son of God and the prophets themselves will be identified by the same Token that identified Jesus: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit working in the ministry of the last-day prophets will testify that they are giving the last-day message. He will prick the hearts of all who serve the Lord and they will heed the prophets’ teachings on how to prepare themselves before Jesus returns.
Those charged with keeping the Lord’s flock will not withhold them from receiving the truth of these times. When John declared Jesus as the Messiah before his disciples, two of them went to Jesus to be taught of Him and they became His disciples. This is the goal of all those who pastor the congregations of the Lord, to prepare them for the coming of Jesus. They are aware that one day, the flocks they shepherd will leave them to follow after Jesus.
Through teaching, preaching, and caring for their congregations, pastors and others in the office of the church are to show God’s people the character of Jesus. They are to live out the life of Christ so that the people would understand how He interacted with His fellow men. This is how they would know Him and His prophets will have the same character. The examples of His leaders in their respective offices play a vital role in helping God’s people prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming and in identifying the prophets He will send to prepare them for it.
But false prophets will not do these things, for their goal is to keep the eyes of their congregations on them. They will dispute with the followers of God concerning biblical doctrine and they will rely on teachings not found in Scripture. Feigning piety to the Word, they will undercut its authority by elevating their teachings to the level of biblical doctrine. This will lead many under their influence to contend with those who adhere to the true teachings of Scripture.
In this action, these false shepherds overstep their bounds. They have replaced the Bible, the source of all moral authority, with their finite, human wisdom. By lording over the consciences of their congregations, they repeat the same error of the Jewish leaders, who made accepting Christ a matter that required their authority to do. They encourage people to look to them, not to God, and they do this in a way that makes them appear devout in the eyes of those who hear them.
They cannot reveal their true intentions and they most certainly cannot admit their errors, lest they be reproved. Thus, they will continue in rebelling against God until the very end. Pride will be the sin that destroys the false prophets. They will not yield their flock to Jesus or His last-day prophets, that they may be saved. In order to keep their congregations’ attention on them, the false prophets will arm them to war against these divine messengers, even against Jesus Himself. These cheated congregations will resist the very means by which God provided for their deliverance. Unless they understand the truth for themselves in the last days through the Scriptures of God, they will surely be lost.
John’s testimony to his disciples, jealous for his honor among the people, is a testimony to all who pastor the Lord’s flock. He reminded them that God gave him the people that listened to him and that he himself was not the Christ. He is the friend who rejoices when he hears His Voice among his followers. He told his disciples that Jesus was to increase in His fame and fellowship and he would decrease in it.
This understanding must not be lost on those who wait for the Lord. Followers of God, jealous for the honor of their undershepherds over Jesus (the True Shepherd), must be guided to understand the truth and it is the responsibility of the undershepherds and the last-day prophets to do this. Those charged with keeping their congregations must understand that they are the “friends of the Bridegroom”, not the Bridegroom Himself.
When the last day message is given by God’s prophets, the leaders of these congregations must allow their flocks to hear them, that they may be delivered in the time of trouble. They must understand that their positions among the people are only temporary and they are awaiting the coming of the Lord. He is the true Head of the church and He alone is the Leader of His people. They must overcome the temptation that being in authority comes with: adoration, respect of position, greed, and influence.
They must remember that the Lord appointed them over His people, that they may be taught and prepared to stand in the day of the Lord. The people are not there to worship them. They are to be taught of the way of the Lord that will surely deliver them in the time of their Lord’s coming. Those who dare to cling to this temptation will be responsible for the fall of many and they will surely answer for their failure at the hands of the Lord and at the hands of the lost.
The persecution of John teaches us that last-day prophets will not escape persecution by the powers of darkness in positions of authority. John openly rebuked the marriage of Herod to Herodias, for she was once his brother’s wife. For the sake of Herodias, John was cast into prison. Last-day prophets are not only hated for the truth they teach, but for the sins they rebuke. Persons in places of authority are among those who do this, for their sins are rebuked by those who preach the last-day message. They cherish these things in secret, but the Lord brings them out in the open, that the world may know them. No secret can be kept from Him and the days to come will prove no exception.
But God will protect His people in those days of persecution. Within the world’s capitals, courts, and places of authority, He has people who will defend them from the schemes of evil men. In this case, it was Herod, for John’s testimony had roused the better nature of this tyrant. He knew that John was just and holy. He did many good things when he hearkened to his teachings. This testimony of John kept Herod from acting on his wife’s repetitious urging to slay him.
One could only wonder at what the reformation of Herod would have done for the church if John had the opportunity to tell him to seek the One after him. But by giving in to his wife, who had been the most offended by John’s testimony, Herod forsook the very Means by which he could have been delivered from his sins. He put John in prison.
Herodias had brought Herod under her control in the same manner that Jezebel dominated Ahab. She had encouraged his revelry and used her beauty to excite his lower passions, keeping him under her captivating influence. It was through these means that Herod had taken Herodias as his wife from Philip, his own brother. She had orchestrated this and John, like Elijah, had rebuked the conniving wife of Herod. As a result, John was the first prophet who suffered persecution in the days of Christ.
These means, among many others, work the same result in the lives of God’s people today. Many are led astray by the same sins that enslaved Herod: revelry, the indulgence of alcohol and appetite, and the gratification of every sinful desire. Yea, even those who serve in the church do these things. The world has encouraged them to take up these means and they have done so with zeal. God’s people have forgotten that they were the very means that Herodias used to keep Herod from hearing the gospel through John.
Christ permits no such indulgence of sin, for His people are set apart from these things. The corruptible must be forsaken for the incorruptible, the unholy for the holy. Indulging these things in the days before Christ’s coming will endanger all who look forward to that day. By their nature, they are designed to set you against God. They cannot sanctify, they cannot save, and they will not save. As such, we must seek the Lord in putting away these corrupting influences, that they may not hinder us from preparing for the Lord’s coming.
In John’s languishing in prison, he was assailed by the temptation of doubt. Had he been deceived concerning the Lamb of God? If he was the Messiah, why did He allow His faithful forerunner to remain in prison while He worked among the people? Should he not see the fruit of his faith? In this unenviable state of mind, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the One they sought for. He needed to know this, for this was a trying time for him.
Jesus understood the need His faithful servant expressed to Him. Before John’s disciples, Jesus ministered to the people who came to Him. He healed the afflicted, preached the gospel, and taught them from the Scriptures. To John, the message of His ministry was an answer to his prayers and an encouragement not to be offended in Him. His persecution would not last, but the day will come when John will truly enjoy the fruits of his faith. John understood this and he was strengthened to endure his trial.
Last-day prophets will also be tempted to doubt the Lord because of their sufferings, their humiliations, and their sorrows. They will question why God allows them to suffer at the hands of evil men. It is difficult for them to bear that they languish in these things while others do not.
But Jesus knows their sufferings, their humiliations, and the sorrows they endure. He Himself suffered by these things and more, for He was afflicted by men and tempted by the devil himself. He will surely not leave His last-day forerunners to meditate upon these things. He will strengthen them in their times of trial. He will encourage them not to be offended in Him and in knowing that they are not alone in their sufferings, that Christ Himself is with them, they will be strengthened. They will take courage and continue the work that He has for them.
When John’s disciples departed to give him this message, Jesus preached of John. He reminded the people of whom they went out to see in the wilderness. They did not go out to see a reed shaken in the wind or a man who, in his gorgeous apparel, entertained the favor of kings. They went out to see John, a man who testified of the truth of the coming of the kingdom of heaven. It was this teaching that brought many to a knowledge of Christ and it was his ministry that prepared the way for the Messiah that stood before them.
Jesus’ teaching of last-day prophets should not be ignored by anyone looking for the messengers to come. As John the Baptist before them, truer words cannot be said of those who are called to bring the world a message that it has come to despise. People will not go to see those who are taken by every wind of false doctrine. They will not go see those who live richly, who dress well, and who enjoy the support of those in authority. They will go to see His prophets and it will be our generation that will be greater than John, because we will see Him at His Second Coming, the coming that all who serve the Lord prepare and wait patiently for.
Herod is a representative of those who will be influenced by the work of the last-day prophets .Were they to continue hearing the last-day message and preparing for the Lord, they would be converted. But those like Herodias will seek to captivate the world into seeking pleasure and sins of all kinds. She represents those who will be offended by the truth of the last-day testimony, for it rebukes their sinful lives. They will seek to destroy God’s people. But for a time, they will be held at bay by the Lord, who will protect His people from those who will seek to harm them.
But before the day of the Lord’s coming, the restraints that the Lord has upon the wicked will be taken off. Man will comprehend in those days how much they rely on the Lord when He removes His restraints from the human mind. When this is done and God’s people are persecuted mightily, one of the ways in which the wicked will do so is described in the death of John the Baptist: craft.
Herodias had plotted the death of John the Baptist and she waited patiently. The object of her evil desire would soon meet his end and she would hear John’s rebukes no more. She had waited until Herod’s birthday, when he would surely enjoy the day with feasting and revelry. His senses and his ability to discern judgment would be at their lowest, and at his weakest moment, Herodias would strike.
She had enlisted the help of her daughter, Salome, to destroy her foe. She danced before Herod and all who were with him. The sight of her voluptuous body being paraded before them and the revelry that had reduced their ability to judge rightly had worked upon their minds. No man in that room could possibly have imagined that in their lusting for the daughter of Herodias, they would be the very means in which Herodias would secure her prize. When Herod made the oath to give Salome anything she wanted for dancing for them, he had no clue that he would be the one who would decree the death of the prophet John.
At Herodias’ counsel, Salome asked for John the Baptist’s head in a charger. The very proposition had shocked all who had heard it. Their better senses were aroused when this request came from her, but for the sake of those who were there and because of his oath, Herod granted her request. Salome brought this token before her mother and she had finally silenced the one who boldly rebuked her for her sins. But the Lord avenged the blood of His prophet, for Herodias lost everything because of her wicked course.
Persecuting God’s prophet had destroyed Herodias and it will destroy all who persecute them in the last days. The wicked will certainly persecute the last-day prophets and among them will be those who were once God’s people. Rather than heed the messengers He sent to them, they will take a very different course. They will choose to indulge their sins and they will choose to trust in the former undershepherds of God’s people. The fallen leaders of God’s people will lead their rebellious flock to disregard, and even trouble, the last-day prophets of the Lord. They will trust in their leaders’ “righteousness” rather than the Lord’s prophets, who will risk everything to teach them the truth. This they will do to their own destruction.
This lesson is found and emphasized greatly because it is a chief issue among God’s people today. Many of us can quote the sayings of our preachers and teachers better than we can quote the Word of God. We must hearken to the teachings of the Lord, that we may receive His reward and not the reward of those who trust in man. The Lord made us, He delivered us from sin, and soon He will deliver us from those who serve it more than Him. May you prepare for that day with the lessons He provides us.
NOTE: As you have noticed, we have been covering the Scriptures of God from beginning to end in order to reveal the end-time counsel that each book has for us. So you may be wondering why I suddenly shifted from 1 Samuel to John the Baptist. The truth is that the Lord used the testimony of John the Baptist to deliver me. I plan to share this testimony with you at the end of this month and I pray that it will be a widely received testimony. The world will certainly need to hear this one because it is about something that has been threatening God’s people for a long time. Be sure to tune in!!