A Faith Servant

Another and Greater John the Baptist

(September 29, 2006)

The Urantia Papers, page 1866:

Sooner or later another and greater John the Baptist is due to arise proclaiming "the kingdom of God is at hand" meaning a return to the high spiritual concept of Jesus, who proclaimed that the kingdom is the will of his heavenly Father dominant and transcendent in the heart of the believer and doing all this without in any way referring either to the visible church on earth or to the anticipated second coming of Christ. There must come a revival of the actual teachings of Jesus, such a restatement as will undo the work of his early followers who went about to create a socio-philosophical system of belief regarding the fact of Michael's sojourn on earth. In a short time the teaching of this story about Jesus nearly supplanted the preaching of Jesus' gospel of the kingdom. In this way a historical religion displaced that teaching in which Jesus had blended man's highest moral ideas and spiritual ideals with man's most sublime hope for the future eternal life. And that was the gospel of the kingdom.

 

The Uncertainty of the Historic John

In other discussion I reviewed the difficulty John the Baptist had in deciding his role, and whether he was in some way connected with the Elijah of old. The Urantia Papers offer us commentary on this personal dilemma.

P.1497 - 2 When sixteen years old, John, as a result of reading about Elijah, became greatly impressed with the prophet of Mount Carmel and decided to adopt his style of dress. From that day on John always wore a hairy garment with a leather girdle. At sixteen he was more than six feet tall and almost full grown. With his flowing hair and peculiar mode of dress he was indeed a picturesque youth. And his parents expected great things of this their only son, a child of promise and a Nazarite for life.

 

P.1498 - 2 John was never able completely to rise above the confusion produced by what he had heard from his parents concerning Jesus and by these passages which he read in the Scriptures. In Daniel he read: "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom." But these words of the prophet did not harmonize with what his parents had taught him. Neither did his talk with Jesus, at the time of his visit when he was eighteen years old, correspond with these statements of the Scriptures. Notwithstanding this confusion, throughout all of his perplexity his mother assured him that his distant cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the true Messiah, that he had come to sit on the throne of David, and that he (John) was to become his advance herald and chief support.


P.1499 - 2 On returning to Engedi from his mother's funeral, he presented his flocks to the brotherhood and for a season detached himself from the outside world while he fasted and prayed. John knew only of the old methods of approach to divinity; he knew only of the records of such as Elijah, Samuel, and Daniel. Elijah was his ideal of a prophet. Elijah was the first of the teachers of Israel to be regarded as a prophet, and John truly believed that he was to be the last of this long and illustrious line of the messengers of heaven.


P.1499 - 4 Throughout this period John read much in the sacred writings which he found at the Engedi home of the Nazarites. He was especially impressed by Isaiah and by Malachi, the last of the prophets up to that time. He read and reread the last five chapters of Isaiah, and he believed these prophecies. Then he would read in Malachi: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Yahweh; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers toward the children and the hearts of the children toward their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." And it was only this promise of Malachi that Elijah would  return that deterred John from going forth to preach about the coming kingdom and

to exhort his fellow Jews to flee from the wrath to come. John was ripe for the proclamation of the message of the coming kingdom, but this expectation of the coming of Elijah held him back for more than two years. He knew he was not Elijah. What did Malachi mean? Was the prophecy literal or figurative? How could he know the truth? He finally dared to think that, since the first of the prophets was called Elijah, so the last should be known, eventually, by the same name. Nevertheless, he had doubts, doubts sufficient to prevent his ever calling himself Elijah.

 

P.1499 - 5 It was the influence of Elijah that caused John to adopt his methods of direct and blunt assault upon the sins and vices of his contemporaries. He sought to dress like Elijah, and he endeavored to talk like Elijah; in every outward aspect he was like the olden prophet. He was just such a stalwart and picturesque child of nature, just such a fearless and daring preacher of righteousness. John was not illiterate, he did well know the Jewish sacred writings, but he was hardly cultured. He was a clear thinker, a powerful speaker, and a fiery denunciator. He was hardly an example to his age, but he was an eloquent rebuke.


P.1502 - 1 He came from the herdsmen, like Amos. He was dressed like Elijah of old, and he thundered his admonitions and poured forth his warnings in the "spirit and power of Elijah." It is not surprising that this strange preacher created a mighty stir throughout all Palestine as the travelers carried abroad the news of his preaching along the Jordan.

 

P.1503 - 1 John still had confused ideas about the coming kingdom and its king. The longer he preached the more confused he became, but never did this intellectual uncertainty concerning the nature of the coming kingdom in the least lessen his conviction of the certainty of the kingdom's immediate appearance. In mind John might be confused, but in spirit never. He was in no doubt about the coming kingdom, but he was far from certain as to whether or not Jesus was to be the ruler of that kingdom. As long as John held to the idea of the restoration of the throne of David, the teachings of his parents that Jesus, born in the City of David, was to be the long-expected deliverer, seemed consistent; but at those times when he leaned more toward the doctrine of a spiritual kingdom and the end of the temporal age on earth, he was sorely in doubt as to the part Jesus would play in such events. Sometimes he questioned everything, but not for long. He really wished he might talk it all over with his cousin, but that was contrary to their expressed agreement.

 

We can understand that when queried John simply was unsure, hence could have offered conflicting answers to the question of who he was. But this confusion should not deter us from coming to proper understanding of the new Prophet.

 

Some Demystifying

We might gain some insights about prophets and their attire and manner. I offer the following.

Dress

 

Since the first John the Baptist came to recognize that he was not the old Elijah, he still felt a bond with the Prophet of old. He dressed like him.

 

Rev 11:3
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."


 

A Prophet coming into today's world would certainly not dress like those men of old. He would not put on a hairy garment with a leather girdle. If he did he would immediately be classified as part of a dysfunctional, drug using, imitator of Jesus. Sackcloth in olden days meant a rough, coarse cloth, or a baglike garment made of this cloth and worn as a symbol of mourning or repentance. It was often worn by prophets, perhaps to show their own brokenness in the face of their terrible message of judgment and doom (Isa 20:2). In today's world we might think of burlap as sackcloth, although it hardly seems possible that such a rough cloth would be used by modern prophets. Common attire in jeans and ordinary shirts, without the formal attire of coats and ties, could be considered sackcloth. Today jeans are a very popular form of casual dress around the world and come in many styles and colors. The idea behind this dress is to be non-pretentious. If one is going out to teach others, in a world gone mad, then who would care about dress?

Manner
 

John spoke in tones similar to the old Elijah, in the spirit and power of Elijah.  John thundered his admonitions and poured forth his warnings.

 

Statements about the new Prophet are counter to this manner.

 

Isa 42:3

He will not cry out nor raise his voice; he will not shout in the streets.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.

 

The impression we get from this statement is that the new Prophet will work quietly, in simple surroundings. Contrary to John the Baptist he will not shout in the streets, nor thunder his warnings to immense crowds. Modern preachers and false prophets like to thunder their message to listening crowds, whether in football stadiums, or in large congregations for cable broadcast. Quite probably the new Prophet will speak one-on-one, or in small groups. All the lost souls, longing and looking for God, will need reassurance.


 

Elaboration of the Elements of Page 1866

Another and Greater

 

In what way would a new John the Baptist differ from the old John the Baptist? We should consider what the old one did.

 

John taught the coming of Jesus.

 

John 1:25-27
They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."


The new Prophet will teach the coming of Jesus. But that is nothing new. Fundamentalist Christians today teach the coming of Jesus. Christians have been teaching the Return of Jesus for 2,000 years. But the form of His coming is not known to them. His coming in a Great Light, without human figure, is unknown to Christians. In fact, it is this strange appearance that will have many of God's people confused. They need someone to explain the unusual and unique coming. The immediate presence of Jesus will certainly be a powerful spiritual drawing power. This is how the new Prophet can be so helpful to God's people. We can understand how his teaching can be so much more powerful than the mere thundering voice of the ancient John. What a thrill it will be to speak for God, when He is personally present.

 

"The kingdom of God is at hand."

 

John the Baptist felt within himself a keen and penetrating sense of the Kingdom at Hand. Surely, with the presence of Jesus as a great and mighty heavenly being, he had every right to that sense. That is what he preached. But now, with the End of the Age, and the imminent renovation of the earth, we can say with much greater clarity that the Kingdom truly is at hand. First we have a Great Planetary Judgment. Then we go into a Millennium of adjustment and readjustment. Then we enter into a new Kingdom upon earth. Surely, the Kingdom of God is at hand.

 

A return to the high spiritual concept of Jesus.

 

Christians made Jesus into a somewhat superior man, and think of him as that superior man. Christians have difficulty understanding him as God. In my various attempts to tell other people of the fact of His returning as a high and mighty spiritual being, the Creator of a Universe, I run into the difficulty that they expect him to return as a man. They could not understand Him as a High Spiritual Being.

 

As it is with God, so will it be with the new Kingdom upon earth. A glorious and beautiful brotherhood of all men, when war and enmity will be no more. We must depart the old worn ideas centered around the life of Jesus and move on to a high spiritual understanding of His New Kingdom.

 

The will of His heavenly Father dominant and transcendent in the heart of the believer.

 

Nothing, but nothing, can take the place of doing God's Will. This is where Faith-Decision makes a difference for the salvation of our world. Having faith in His instructions to us, and then deciding to do as He wants. That is the Will of the Heavenly Father dominant and transcendent in the heart of all of God's people.

 

The old John declared Jesus, and thundered his admonitions to the people of his day. But now this Other and Greater John the Baptist will ask God's people to decide for their God. The people of old had only to decide for their own personal relationship with God. They did not need to take action other than to modify their lives. Here the decisions are final, death or life. Here the decisions are final, to fail in utter hopelessness or to grasp hold of the Will of God and save this world for future generations. Then His people who will come singing back to the Promised Land.

 

Without in any way referring either to the visible church on earth or to the anticipated second coming of Christ.

 

How can we talk about the visible church on earth when God's people will come from many different sects and human allegiances. The visible church will evaporate when this civilization will evaporate in the Great Holocaust. How can we talk about the Second Coming of Christ when Jesus will be personally here upon this planet. The Second Coming of Christ is what the churches teach today. Jesus will return, but the foolish idea of Christ will be lost in the new teaching of salvation of the earth. Jesus is not merely the Ruler of this world, taking over from Caligastia, the Devil. He is the Creator of a Universe. He cannot devote Himself solely to this world. He is the Administrator of a Universe Creation. The misconceived concept of a Christ, based on 2000 years of foolish theology, is grossly inadequate to the New Earth that comes with the New Heaven.