John the Baptist’s birth and life announced the coming of the Messiah. The angel Gabriel told Zechariah that his son would “…go before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” which referenced Old Testament prophecies found in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 (Luke 1:17, ESV). In each of those passages, the prophet connected the messenger or John the Baptist with the coming of the Lord. When John began his baptizing ministry in the Jordan River, several religious leaders asked him if he was the Messiah or the Prophet, but he answered a firm no (John 1:19-21, ESV). In fact, John the Baptist refused to receive any veneration or praise or acclaim, he redirected the people and the religious leaders back to the Messiah, who he exclaimed was mightier than him (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:7; and Luke 3:16).
If John the Baptist went before the Lord to announce his coming, to prepare the way for the Lord, then it stands to reason that he accomplished his mission. The apostle John recorded such an admission by John the Baptist, who said about the Messiah that “he must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). Unfortunately, John’s life ended in a most harsh way as King Herod had him beheaded over a promise made to his daughter (Matt. 14:10, Mark 6:27, & Luke 9:9). King Herod stopped the King’s messenger, but not before he delivered his message. Each of the writers of the synoptic gospels recorded Jesus’s high praise of John the Baptist as being more than a prophet and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matt. 11:9-11 & Luke 7:26-28). I would love to have such a glowing endorsement from the Lord.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the disciples at Pentecost, the church became a herald of the King like John the Baptist. The Bride of Christ became her groom’s forerunner messenger of his second coming. According to Jesus’s words in John’s gospel, he would go ahead of us in order to prepare a place for us; consequently, he later prayed to the Father about not removing the sheep from the world (John 14:3, 17:15). He left us in order to send the Holy Spirit for the capability of preaching the gospel (Acts 1:8, ESV). Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 confirmed the church’s proclamation of the gospel message to the lost. By the time the apostle Paul entered the scene, he described the Corinthian believers and by extension the church universal as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20, ESV).
What is an ambassador? It’s a person who represents a people or nation to others with all of the authority of that nation. The church announces the soon coming king and kingdom. She houses many heralds, many ambassadors, who carry the authority of Christ by the indwelling person and work of the Holy Spirit. Like John the Baptist, we may be lone voices crying in the wilderness. We may deliver a message that offends many. Our appearance may offend many, but that’s not our concern. Our task is to obey the Great Commission. We are to prepare the way for the Lord, and to prepare a people for the Lord. The King is coming, and he’s bringing his recompense with him. Are we ready to give our lives if necessary like John the Baptist? Do we want to hear from our master, “well done good and faithful servant?”