THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW VOLUME 1 CHAPTER 5

SECTION 1: THE EARLY EVENTS OF JESUS THE KING
CHAPTER 5

A Message Of Repentance
Or
Prepare The Way Of The Lord

Scripture To Consider:
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight.”‘”

“And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”

“But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father”. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree which does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'” Matthew 3.1-12

Something To Consider:
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, preaching a message of repentance. He prepared the way for the public ministry of our Lord. He was in reality, the first herald of the King. This is evident from the word used to describe his work. In other words, he came preaching, literally heralding. Even the word came implies the arrival of an official. This is evidence also from the message of repentance John delivered, by his proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The other evangelists record the call to repent, but only Matthew adds the fact that this is a proclamation of the kingdom.

This is further evident from the prophecy quoted as fulfilled in John’s mission, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight.'” Thus, to John is assigned the role of a royal herald ordering the repair of the roads in view of the progress and near approach of the King. In the Middle East where roads were few and poor, it was necessary to send an officer before a monarch to command the repair of the highways. So, John by his call to repentance was preparing the people spiritually for the introduction of the public ministry of Christ.

The time when John appeared is stated most definitely, by the words; “In those days…” It was when Jesus was residing in Nazareth, but after nearly thirty years has passed since His birth, and when at last Jesus was ready to leave His obscure home and to undertake His royal task. It was then that John the Baptist was sent to arouse the expectation of the people and to make them eager for the coming of the King, by John proclaiming a much needed in every generation message of repentance.

John’s mode of life was in keeping with the stern character of his office. He was clothed in a rough garment of camel’s hair cloth. His food was locusts and wild honey. He was not teaching men to be financial prosperity seekers; but he was calling them from a life of self-indulgence and from sin. John the Baptist set an example of self-denial and of self-forgetful devotion to his task, something that all ministers and heralds of the gospel message of repentance should take to heart.

His success was immediate and surprising. The nation was aroused, and multitudes were baptized, not as a mere Jewish rite symbolizing a purification which might be repeated daily, but as a sign of a definite break with a sinful past, and of a former crisis never to be experienced again. John’s simplistic message of repentance brought about a spiritual hungering and thirsting in the minds and hearts of his hearers for true repentance and God’s true righteousness found only in our believing in Jesus Christ.

Something Else To Consider:
Among the crowds John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were the so-called religious leaders of that day, coming to his baptism. They had not repented. They did not believe in their personal need for John’s message. They had no desire to do the will of God, therefore, they were ready to reject and later destroy the Christ whose coming John proclaimed. So, John addressed them in bitter rebuke and in tones of ironical surprise, by declaring of them, “Brood of vipers [poisonous snakes]! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?”

John was aware that his message of repentance had awakened them to humanly seek an escape of the coming judgment as serpents fleeing before advancing flames of fire. And yet, there was no repentance, simply human fear of the wrath of God. True repentance must be sincere! It involves a change of heart and a corresponding life; therefore, John stated, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” In other words, inherited privileges and or membership in a religious sect, synagogue, or church denomination will not suffice. Repentance is a biblical requirement!

John continued his rebuke of these so-called religious leaders, by also proclaiming, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” In other words, according to John the Baptist, God can prepare for Himself saintly children who will indeed willingly accomplish His will in the earth out of the most unpromising of human material.

Such in part was the rebuke addressed by John to the insincere and unrepentant. Matthew continues to record the message intended for the multitudes as well. It consists of both warnings and of promises. Repentance is absolutely necessary, for judgment is near! According to John, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees [and yet it is not to prune but to destroy]. Therefore, every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” We cannot simply sidestep these biblical warnings!

The King is about to appear, and He will baptize the true repentant with the Holy Spirit, not merely with the physical symbol of water but into spiritual fellowship with the divine Person of Jesus Christ, not to symbolize a mere turning from sin, but to also secure an actual deliverance from guilt and the power and bondage of sin. Yet, He is also to baptize us with fire, for the coming judgment is described by the picture of the threshing floor. The repentant are according to John the Baptist, likened unto wheat, which will be gathered into the kingdom of God, but the unrepentant are likened unto chaff, which will be burned up with unquenchable fire.

Such is the proclamation of the heavenly herald! The King is coming to establish His kingdom; but judgment will precede, therefore the message of John is to turn from sin, to accept the King and share in the glory of Christ’s eternal reign. Here appears the herald of the Messiah, while John’s denunciation of the religious rulers matches their future rejection of his Lord, and his prediction of judgment points to the ultimate triumph and perfected kingdom of Christ.

Something More To Consider:
The Old Testament records less than ten [10] verses relating to the predictions of the first coming of Jesus Christ. The New Testament in contrast records over forty [40] verses referring to the second coming of Jesus Christ. If a further study of the second coming included words such as end of the age, the end, last times, last days, the day, the day of the Lord, the day of God, the great day, the day of wrath, the day of redemption, and finally, the last day, one would find over seventy [70] more verses relating to Jesus Christ’s second coming.

And yet, some might ask, “But isn’t the Scripture to consider referring to the first coming of Jesus Christ?” Yes, but now with the knowledge of the exceedingly more verses, space, and time dedicated in the New Testament that refer to the second coming of Jesus Christ, let us further examine John the Baptist’s message of repentance in the biblical light of Christ’s return and or second coming.

Therefore, with a better understanding of the greater amount of attention and biblical information covering the second coming of Jesus Christ, should our spiritual awareness be awakened in regard to end time events leading up to the highly documented second coming of our Lord? I believe a resounding yes, is in order!

In those days, the days of Jesus’ first coming, John the Baptist came preaching what? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand [or near].” Therefore, some two thousand years later, how much more at hand, how much closer, how much nearer is the kingdom of heaven? The correct answer of course is, the kingdom of heaven is extremely more at hand, extremely closer, and extremely nearer than ever before. In relation to the past two thousand years, the second coming of Jesus, the coming of His kingdom, and the coming and predicted judgment of an Almighty God, is indeed near and even on the horizon.

Therefore, does the thought of Christ’s soon return create any heart-felt enthusiasm within us as true born-again believers? And if that is not the case, does the thought and biblical predictions of the second coming of Jesus create a sense of concern within us if we are delaying our decision to become true born-again believers in Jesus Christ and John’s message of repentance? Can we at least agree that this good news should stir us all to action at least in our thought process as it relates to end time events and the second and soon biblically documented coming of Jesus Christ?

A Few Final Words:
How we deal with John’s message of repentance will of course determine if we are truly preparing the way of the Lord in our own lives or not. How we respond to John preaching a message of repentance at Christ’s first coming will also determine whether we are willing to make Christ’s paths into our hearts and lives straight as we consider His soon second coming in great glory and power in order to extend mercy where mercy is due and to mete out justice and judgment where deserved.

Will we be as the Pharisees and or as the Sadducees who came to the religious meetings being held in the wilderness of this world simply out of curiosity or in a human attempt to rid themselves and ourselves of the guilt and shame associated with their sin or our own personal sin? Will we be found guilty as were these so-called religious leaders; guilty of associating ourselves with believers and yet, void of any true repentance and or without any true signs of our truly bearing spiritual fruit worthy of repentance?

Therefore, the question must be asked of each of us as individuals facing the fact of the undeniable soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Will we be found worthy to escape the wrath of Almighty God that is coming due to unbelief in Jesus, rejection of Jesus, and or our own stubborn human rebelliousness against Jesus Christ and against the well-preserved written Word of God?

Or will we be found willingly and obediently abiding safely in Jesus Christ and therefore gathered together as wheat into the barn of God’s kingdom because the question of our personal repentance of our past sin has been settled, and we are now being found to be taking advantage of personal repentance of our present and future sin when convicted by the Holy Spirit? According to John the Baptist, the alternative is unquenchable everlasting fire! Let us therefore choose wisely!

As John was accustomed, and as many other unhindered by unconfessed sin in preachers since John, we must not abandon the message of repentance. As John, we too are called to spiritually prepare the way of the Lord and the more numerously declared second coming of Jesus. And according to the written Word of God, at this immensely important time in the history of the world, and especially America, we must become a nation of contrite hearts.

In Closing:
Therefore, it should be our understanding as a part of this 21st century generation, that these biblical warnings and mandates are directed at us and that it is vastly critical for America to hear and to heed the age old and much needed message of repentance, if we are to be properly prepared as the wise virgins were prepared, for the second coming of Jesus. And yet, as always, God awaits our individual decision!

Let’s Pray:
Our Father in heaven, teach us the lesson of a lifetime regarding true repentance. May this most important message be a message of great personal concern for each of us. And Lord, make sure our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones are well prepared for the soon second coming of Jesus Christ. In Him Always, Amen!

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