The Forerunners

"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him
                                                                                                                      John 6:60-64
In their day, the disciples found that people were offended when they witnessed of a man call Jesus, the Christ - a man of their own generation. If their witness had been of David, Moses, Noah or any of the prophets, the people would not have been so offended. Why? Because they would have been speaking of historical figures and of what God, had in the past, done through them. But when the disciples spoke of Jesus and his ministry, a man of their own generation, as the fulfillment of prophecy, they were greatly offended - especially the religious leaders.

That same attitude and spirit prevails today. If I speak of Paul, Peter, James, John, or even more recently of Luther, Wesley, or Charles Finney - people take no offence. Even to bring to remembrance those who were known by their evil deeds, like Judas, Herod, Pontius Pilate, Pharaoh, or Satan himself - it still brings no offence; because to most people they are just historical figures having little or no influence in today's world. People accept, respect and applaud them for what they were. But to speak of a contemporary in the same manner brings out the opposition in full strength - exactly as it was in the days when the disciples witnessed of Jesus. Rather than recognize, respect, and accept a "contemporary" figure such as William Branham whom God has "singled out" for a specific fulfillment of prophecy in this present Age, most professing Christians (especially the religious leaders) strongly oppose it.

The Bible speaks on this wise:

"Without Faith it is impossible to please him: For he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Hebrews 11:6

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48

 According to these Scripture, I cannot, by intellectual persuasion convince anyone that there is a God. Neither can I persuade them that God has acted in this generation fulfilling "specific" prophecy relating to the Second Coming of Christ,  the Resurrection and the Rapture. I can give an individual the "knowledge" of what God has done. But it takes the Holy Spirit, in a humble heart to make a reality to the individual. The Holy Spirit reveals it to whomsoever. In 2nd. Corinthians 4:3 Paul said, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:"

To enter into the "reality" of prophecy fulfilled two conditions MUST be met: First, the individual MUST "believe that God "IS" and that He is a "rewarder" of them that "diligently" seek Him"; and secondly, they must, "according to the foreknowledge of God", be "ordained unto eternal life". Acts 13:48 states "and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Otherwise, he/she will not accept the witness. Before they can come to God they must believe that there is a God, and secondly, before he can believe that God has done anything in his own generation, he must believe what God has done in other generations.

So if we can believe that there is a God and want to recognize and see (understand) what He has and is accomplishing in this generation, then we need to recognize His Works, His pattern, and promises in past generations. For according to His Word, He "changes not" and will act the same today as He did in the past. The Bible tells us that "God is perfect in all His ways". In dealing with man, God does not change, update, or modernize His thoughts, patterns or methods. He begins and ends with the same 'tools' - His "Word" and "faith" (absolute trust) in that Word.

Actually, it was a lack of absolute faith in God's Word which caused the fall in the beginning. Eve allowed Satan to cause her to 'doubt' one Word of God. Another example is that of Cain and Abel - The Word was (by faith - Spiritual Revelation in the heart) revealed to Abel; and acting on that which was revealed, he offered the "more acceptable excellent" sacrifice to the Lord. Cain, by-passed the Word - that which was revealed to Abel, and offered a sacrifice of his own choosing - he was rejected. We must needs remember that "the Word will not profit us if it is not mixed with faith" (absolute trust) (Hebrews 4:2).

Let's consider this example:

"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became the heir of the righteousness which is by faith."  Hebrews 11:7

 Notice that it was "by faith" that Noah did this. He believed that God was talking to him and he acted on his faith. But consider the people who lived in the days of Noah - what in the world did they think of this old man?. Remember, Noah was only one man; he was neither a church nor a denomination. His message was brand new - it had never been heard before. It spoke of things that just couldn't happen - he prophesied that rain was going to fall from the heavens. Since the ground had always been watered by the dew (Genesis 2:6) the people had never experienced rain before. But Noah insisted that it would rain in such a deluge that the world would be flooded. By his works he showed that he believed what he was preaching - he constructed an Ark for the Salvation of those who would believe.

Put yourself back in that day and hear their laughter and derision. Why, they had never heard of such foolishness! But in spite of their unbelief, that was God's way in Noah's time - whether they believed it or not. He sent one man with a Message and those who listened to that man were saved - the rest perished.

What if Noah had waited for someone else to preach it, the warning would never have been given, but he had faith that God had spoken to him and he responded accordingly. By Faith Noah believed God and condemned the rest of the world, but saved his own household, Now, if you had lived in Noah's day, would you have thought him to be insane or a fanatic; or, would you have looked upon Noah as a prophet of God, thereby saving yourself and your household?

Maybe you find it difficult to place yourself in Noah's day. If so, let us come down to the time of Abraham. Abraham was not raised in the righteousness of God - in fact, his family had been heathens. But one day God spoke to him, telling him to leave the land of his fathers and journey to a new land. The Bible tells us that when Abraham left, he journeyed "not knowing whither he went," but he believed that God had spoken to him and boldly told his family, "I am leaving here and going there and whatever land I look upon or put my foot upon, God is going to give it to us." You see, Abraham didn't just believe IN God, he believed God. There's quite a difference between "believing in" God and "believing ALL" that God says in His Word. DO YOU, like Abraham, BELIEVE GOD? In the book of Numbers the Lord rebuked the children of Israel for their unbelief saying, "...How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? Numbers 14:11.

 Now, if you had been a member of Abraham's family, would you have believed your relative with the strange revelation from God? Would you have followed him, or might you have said, "Wait a minute. We love you Abraham, but we never heard anybody talk like this before. How do we know God spoke to you?" Maybe you would have discounted his Message, saying, "Nothing doing, Abraham; the priest is not teaching this, and you have no vindication. After all, what proof do we have that you have even heard from God?" And Abraham, indeed, had no physical proof, for his proof was in the intangible material of faith, locked within his heart. And for Abraham, his faith had enough "substance" and "evidence" (Hebrews 11:1) to cause him to believe it and act on it.

We know that later, as Abraham journeyed through the land, his nephew Lot, left Abraham's tents and went down to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the way of the world. Here it was that Lot, a righteous man, sitting in the gates of the city, when Two Messengers arrived from the tents of Abraham, recognized the two as Angel Messengers of God. These were not beings with fluttery wings, but Messengers sent from God, bringing a word from the Lord. He also listened with careful attention to their fearful Message, "Get out of Sodom and Gomorrah! Leave this city! Do not look back, for God is going to destroy it with fire."

Could you have taken such a Message seriously? Picture yourself; could you have actually recognized these two as messengers from God and followed them out of the city without looking back, even at the terrible destruction which followed? (YOU may be among those who are given a chance to make that decision today, for there is a modern Sodom and Gomorrah which have been warned in a similar manner - by a Vindicated Prophet of God - and that warning is found in the pages of this book.)

Let us turn to the New Testament to learn of another man with a strange Message and HOW he was accepted. St. John records in chapter 1:19-21 the following interesting discourse between John the Baptist and certain priestly men:

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who art thou?
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No."

These priests and Levites saw that everything about John was different - his Message of repentance, his clothing of camel skin, even his diet of locusts and wild honey. They observed that he didn't come down to the Temple to preach, yet his ministry was outstandingly effective. Puzzled by this strange man of the Wilderness, they sought an answer; hence the question, Are you Elias?" The last great Prophet these people knew of was Malachi, whose Message had rung out some four hundred years before. These religious Jews were well acquainted with Malachi 4:5, and they thought John was the fulfillment of this portion of that prophecy...

5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."

But when asked IF he were "that" prophet John clearly stated "no!" Then they thought John might be the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18 where Moses had said that there would be a Prophet sent to them "Like unto" Moses himself. The mystery deepened as John also gave a flat denial to this question.

Well, John denied being the prophet to "restore all things"; now he denies being the "prophet like unto Moses". Who indeed was he? Not fully understanding the Scriptures the religious leaders asked him if he were "The" Anointed One - the Messiah. To this question he answer "yes" and "no"; "yes", he was "anointed" of God, and "no", he was NOT "The" Anointed One.

Finally, in their spiritual blindness, the priests and Levites asked him, "Who art thou?" Without hesitation John the Baptist (in St. John 1:23) identified himself in the Scriptures, pointing them to a prophecy they had overlooked in Isaiah 40:3, saying "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness." WAS John testifying of himself? No! John was testifying of the Scriptures and the Scriptures testified of him. He was the "perfect fulfillment" of that Scripture.

Isaiah had said (Isaiah 40:3) that one would come crying as a voice in the wilderness. John the Baptist was that "Voice". Also, Malachi 3:1 states, "Behold, I will send my Messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts." Again, John the Baptist was that Messenger who was sent to forerun, before the Lord would suddenly come to His Temple. John, by the Scriptures, knew who he was and what his ministry would do? BUT would we have known who he was?

 Now, let's see how Jesus identified John the Baptist. In revealing Himself as the Son of Man, he also placed John's ministry in the Word. Matthew 17:1-13 records the following conversation which Jesus had with the disciples concerning the Elijah ministry of Malachi's 4:5 prophecy, and the ministry of John the Baptist. In this portion of Scripture Jesus identifies a future Elijah type ministry to restore all things (this is discussed in chapter 2), and then He identifies John the Baptist as the Elijah of the First Coming of Christ.

And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.

Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist, then, was indeed a man with the spirit of Elias, forerunning the First Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. But he was NOT "that Elijah" to restore all things. Yet, the most religious people of the day, the Scribes and Pharisees, though they looked for the Messiah, didn't recognize Him or His forerunner. Jesus confirmed that they didn't, testifying that it is possible for God's sending of a Mighty man to go unnoticed by even the religious people of the world. But if John was the forerunner, then it must have been necessary to recognize him as a forerunner, or God would have sent him in vain. Failure to recognize the "forerunner" leads to a failure to recognize WHO and WHAT he foreruns. Even in the theological seminaries, it is taught that John was the forerunner, but the reason for such a forerunner has been lost in their teachings. The conditions of the Age required that a "forerunner" come to "prepare" the people to receive what God promised.

Let us examine this point more minutely from the Bible. Paul, speaking to twelve followers of John's Message in Ephesus, in Acts 19:3, asked under WHAT BAPTISM they had been baptized. "Unto John's baptism," was their reply. Paul preached of Jesus to them and then they were baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ. They had "listened to" and "believed" the forerunner; therefore, they were ready to receive the Revealed Truth of Christ's having come in that Age.

 John the Baptist, standing on the banks of the Jordon, was asked (John 1:25), "Why baptizes thou then if thou be not the Christ, neither Elias, neither that Prophet?" John answered then easily, saying, "I baptize with water, but there standeth one among you whom ye knew not (meaning he knew already that Christ was present). He that is coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe latchet I am not worthy to unloose." Here John hints that Christ is present, but notice that John does not point Him out, for the "Sign" had not yet been sent. John explains about the "Sign" in John 1:29-34:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

No one else, not even John, knew the Messiah until God "Sent the Sign" that He had foretold John he would see. Of course when John saw it, he said, "This is the Son of God." If John himself didn't know it until he saw that witness, then God's Word would have been broken if anyone else had recognized the Messiah before John did. Do you see the significance of that statement?

IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to have recognized Jesus Christ's first coming UNTIL the "sign" had been sent and recognized by the Forerunner.

 If it were possible for anyone to recognize Jesus as the Son of God WITHOUT John the Baptist's Message, then God did a vain thing when He sent John.

John the Baptist lost some disciples after this. As recorded in John 1:35: "Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, 'Behold the Lamb of God'!" And the two disciples heard him speak and they quit following John and started following after Jesus. What did the Forerunner do? He introduced people to what? Baptism, Repentance. BUT what was it for? To show then the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, and even John's own disciples began to follow Him.

Even those people who had lived with Jesus, who knew Him best, had no idea who He was, for according to Mark 6:1-3...

And he went out from thence, and came into His own country; and his disciples follow him.
And when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, from whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

The people who knew Jesus personally hadn't recognized Him as the Lamb of God. You see, if Jesus had come down from Heaven as a full grown man, dressed in royal robes, with perhaps 10,000 legions of Angels behind Him, and had done away with the Romans, and had made the Pharisees the rulers, He would have been accepted as the Messiah. But, no, He came just as the prophets said He would come, born in Bethlehem, in a manger.

Raised as a carpenter's son in Nazareth, He walked among the people on the streets and in the Temple, and as long as He was performing miracles and doing signs, such as feeding the multitude with fishes and bread, they accepted Him.

But when He started speaking those things which to them was strange doctrine, declaring Himself as from the Father and saying, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father," the Scripture says, "MANY followed Him no more."

No, Jesus Christ did not descend dressed in royal robes, for God's way was that He sent a forerunner; just as He had sent Noah with a Strange Message, just as He spoke to Abraham, just as He dealt with Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, so He sent John the Baptist. Is it possible that in our generation God might also do something unusual? If so, He would do it the same way that He has before. He would send a man with a Message, and of course most of the world wouldn't listen. But those who hear by Faith and from the Word can test it by the Word, as did the Bereans in Acts 17:11, to see whether it is God declaring Himself to this generation.

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