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John The Baptist, a prophet from a priestly family, who preached a message of repentance, announced the coming of the Messiah, baptised Jesus, and was beheaded by Herod Antipas.

John's parents were elderly, but both were upright in the eyes of God. Elizabeth was barren. John's sex and name was foretold by the angel Gabriel, before the conception of the boy.

His conception had been bought about by the Hand of God. Not only were the couple elderly. but Elizabeth was barren and she was passed childbearing age.

Zechariah, John's father, was a priest from the division of Abijah. Elizabeth, his mother, was a descendant of Aaron. The angel Gabriel announced John's birth, while Zechariah was burning incense in the Temple. John would not drink wine or strong drink. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and as a prophet he would have the spirit and power of Elijah. He was to function in repentance and renewal, as the Old Testament prophet did. His role would be to prepare the Lord's people for the coming of the Messiah.

Zeahariah did not believe the angel Gabriel, so he could not speak throughout the pregnancy. When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John." Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbours were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, what then was this child going to be? For they knew God was with him. His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.

Elizabeth was a relative of Mary of Nazareth, who gave birth to Jesus. When Elizabeth was pregnant with John, she greeted Mary who also was pregnant with Jesus. In some mysterious super natural way, The Holy Spirit produced a remarkable response by the unborn baby in Elizabeth's womb. John unborn lept for joy in Elizabeth's womb, the Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth and she prophesied.

John was born in the year 7 B.C. Throughout his life, John The Baptist, ate simple food, had basic clothing and a very elementary lifestyle as a visual protest against indulgence of the present time and of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Herodians who were supposed to be teaching God's Word, including the political party of the Zealots, all of whom were being hypocritical.

John was in the wilderness desert region of Judea, an area which stretched from Bethlehem and Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea, until the time of his public ministry. There he ate locusts and wild honey. In the desert insects were a common source of food. He wore the dress of a prophet, camel's hair and a leather belt and began his ministry around the Jordan River in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar in approximately A.D. 26. It would have been in John's thirtieth year.

John the Baptist's ministry came with a prophetic word. God, through John announced the coming of the kingdom, Jesus The Son of God, inaugurated it. John's ministry prepared the way and Jesus is the Way to God's salvation. John was the forerunner of the Messiah, and Jesus is the Messiah. Both John and Jesus announced God's dynamic reign of His Kingdom. Jesus brings the kingdom in His own Person and ministry.

John The Baptist cried out for the repentance of sin, to be made ready for redemption, was John The Baptist. He prepared the way for the saviour of mankind, Jesus, The Christ.

John The Baptist was sent by God to warn the people that each individual person must make their own choice to return to God, so that God could forgive them and prepare them for the deliverance that was about to come, which was a fulfilment of prophecies of Isaiah 40:3-5, and Malachi 3:1, 4:56. The acceptance of baptism was a sign that they had done this, for God grants forgiveness where there is regret. Jews, in general, did not associate water baptism with an act of repentance. They, especially The Teachers of The Law of The Scriptures given to Moses, relied upon being descendants of Abraham to be accepted by God, without the moral and spiritual attitude as required by God towards Him. Yet John The Baptist, was recognised by all as a Prophet of God.

Those who were to receive Christ had to be put on the right path of repentance of sins, for not being right with God offends Him. Those who had repented were ignited with enthusiasm for The Messiah by the Crier of Good News. Isaiah informed God's people of a messenger of the genuine report that God cares for His people, would spread to all nations.

His preaching emphasised the coming judgement, the need for repentance, and the coming of the Messiah. John emphasises the ethical teachings and called The Teachers of Religious Law a "generation of vipers". He lived in the wilderness, travelling around the Jordan Valley and his baptisms represented a change of heart and sorrow for past mistakes against God, and living a more dedicated lifestyle with a need for a Saviour. Jesus also called these teachers a 'brood of vipers'.

"With water I baptise those who repent of their sins: but someone else is coming far greater than I am. He shall baptise you with The Holy Spirit and Fire", preached John. John The Baptist himself was a prophet and as forecast, did successfully prepare the way for Jesus' public ministry.

John The Baptist's words gave evidence of the kingdom's power, and spoke of The Messiah's works and deeds. He announced the availability of salvation, the possibility of belonging to the Kingdom of God, through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus brought the dynamic redemptive reign of God. John told the people that followed him, that The Messiah must be the centre of their focus and he himself, must become less important.

People came to hear John preach. They came from nearby Jerusalem, Judea and from the whole region of the Jordan, confessing their sins they were baptised by John in the Jordan River. The recognised Him as a prophet of God.

John's preaching had a great affect on the people, among them the eloquent Apollos.

Jesus was 30 years old, when He was baptised by John in the Jordan River, the age that all Jewish Rabbis began their teachings and interpretations of the scriptures. Jesus travelled from Galilee to John, His forerunner. His act was that of obedience, to do things right before God, not that He needed to be baptised, nor any confession of sins. Jesus publicly identified Himself with the people He came to save and to show His agreement with John's ministry.

Jesus was baptised by John, and explained that it was "to fulfil all righteousness". Jesus' own baptism and His anointing by The Holy Spirit marked the beginning of His own ministry. God revealed to John, to witness that The One on whom The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove was HIS SON-and so when this happened to Jesus, John openly testified that Jesus was 'The Lamb of God' whom God had sent, and that this man Jesus is the 'Light of the World'.

Jesus even identified John with the restoration ministry role of Elijah the Old Testament prophet.

Glimpses of John's ministry show his disciples practised fasting, and he taught them to pray. John was vigorous in his attacks on King Herod, for this he was thrown in prison. While John was in prison, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire whether Jesus was the coming One John had languished in the prison for some months and he sent some of his followers for Jesus' reassurance. Jesus told them to report what they had seen, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the good news being preached to the poor in spirit. They saw the evidence of impressive deed, miracles and raising of the dead. Upon hearing this news, John was secure in the knowledge that Jesus truly was Christ, for all this was predicted of the Messiah in the Scriptures. Some of Jesus' first disciples had also been disciples of John the Baptist.

John's death came after he was imprisoned at the fortress in Perea on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. King Herod liked to listen to John speak and spoke with him occasionally. Herod's wife however, held a grudge against John for he had called their marriage sinful in the eyes of God. On King Herod's birthday, he held a banquet and invited high officials and military commanders. Herod's step-daughter danced at the function to please Herod and his guest. King Herod was gratified at this display and granted her nay request she required. Her mother told her to ask for John The Baptist's head on a platter. In front of important guests, Herod could not refuse and ordered it be so, even though it greatly distressed him. Immediately after the execution, John's disciples were allowed to take his body and bury it.

Some criticised John The Baptist for his severe hermit like life-style but Jesus praised John as the greatest of the prophets. John was born under The Old Covenant of Law, he was known as the friend of the Bridegroom.
Jesus considered him to be above all who had ever been born.

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