ADVENT OF THE MESSIAH The word "messiah" in Hebrew means the "anointed one", especially signifying the king. The Israelites believed the Word of God that He would send a king or Messiah to save them; this was the Messianic expectation of the Israelites. In this sense, Jesus Christ came as the Messiah, "Christ" meaning "Messiah" in the Hellenic language.
The Messiah must come in order that the purpose of God's providence of salvation be fulfilled. Man needs salvation because of the human fall. Therefore, we must understand the questions concerning the human fall in order to solve the problems of salvation. "Fall" implies that God's purpose of creation was left unfulfilled, so we must first elucidate the purpose of creation before we discuss the questions concerning the human fall.
God's purpose of creation was to be fulfilled with the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Due to the fall of man, an earthly hell was brought about instead of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Ever since, God has continued His providence to restore the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Consequently, the purpose of human endeavor is to restore the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. These questions have already been discussed in detail (cf. Part I, Ch. 3, Sec. I-II--100).
SECTION I - THE PROVIDENCE OF SALVATION THROUGH THE CROSS
1. THE PURPOSE OF JESUS' COMING AS THE MESSIAH
The purpose of Jesus' coming as the Messiah was to fulfill the providence of restoration; his coming was primarily to save fallen men. Consequently, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth should have been established by Jesus. We may see this even from what Jesus said to his disciples, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48). According to the principle of creation, a man who has fulfilled the purpose of creation becomes one body with God, possesses deity, and cannot commit sins. This kind of man, seen from the purpose of creation, is one who is perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. Therefore, Jesus' words to his disciples meant that they should become citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom, after having been restored as men who have fulfilled the purpose of creation.
Thus, Jesus came in order to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, having restored fallen men as citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom. For this reason he told his disciples to pray that God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt. 6:10). He also urged the people to repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand (Matt. 4:17). For the same reason, John the Baptist, who had come to prepare the way of the Lord, also announced the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 3:2).
What would the man be like, then, who became perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, having restored himself as the man in whom the purpose of creation is fulfilled? Such a man would become one body with God, inseparable from Him, living in accordance with God's will. Feeling exactly what God feels, he would possess deity. This man is not in need of redemption or of a savior, nor does he need the life of prayer and faith required by fallen men, because he is without original sin. Such a man, being himself without original sin, comes to multiply children of goodness without original sin; in consequence, his children are not in need of a savior for the redemption of their sins.
2. WAS THE PROVIDENCE OF SALVATION FULFILLED THROUGH REDEMPTION BY THE CROSS?
Since human history began, there has not been a single man, however devout a saint he may have been, who has lived a life in complete oneness with God. Not a single man has experienced God's own heart and feeling, or possessed the same deity. Consequently, there has not yet been a saint who did not need redemption from sin and a life of prayer and faith. Even a man as devout as Paul was compelled to lead a life of faith and tearful prayers (Rom. 7:18-25). All parents, however devout, cannot give birth to a child without sin who may go to the Kingdom of Heaven without redemption by the savior. From this, we perceive that parents are still transmitting original sin to their children.
What does the reality of the life in faith of the Christian teach us? It tells us straightforwardly that redemption through the cross cannot completely liquidate our original sin, and that it leaves man's original nature not yet perfectly restored. Jesus promised the Lord would come, because Jesus knew he could not fulfill the purpose of his advent as the Messiah through redemption by the cross. Christ had to come again to fulfill perfectly the will of God, because God's predestination to restore the Kingdom of Heaven on earth was absolute and unchangeable.
Did his sacrifice on the cross then come to naught? Not at all (John 3:16). If it had, Christian history could not have existed. We can never deny the magnitude of the grace of redemption by the cross. Therefore, it is true that our faith in the cross can bring about redemption. It is equally true that redemption by the cross has been unable to remove our original sin and restore us as men of the original nature who cannot commit sin; thus, it has been unable to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Then, the question arises as to the extent of redemption by the cross. The faith of modern men of intellect cannot be directed unless we can solve this problem.
3. THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS
Let us first examine Jesus' crucifixion from the viewpoint of the words and actions of the disciples that were recorded in the Bible. There was one evident feeling common among the disciples concerning Jesus' death. They were grieved and mortified by Jesus' death. They were indignant at the ignorance and disbelief of the people who caused the crucifixion of Jesus (Acts 7:51-53). Christians since have commonly entertained the same feeling as did the disciples of Jesus' days. If Jesus' death had been a natural result of God's predestination, there would have been no reason for the disciples to decry it, though it may have been inevitable for them to grieve over his death. From this, we can ascertain that Jesus' having to take the path of death was unjust and undue.
Next, let us further investigate from the viewpoint of God's providence whether Jesus' crucifixion was a natural result of God's predestination. God called the chosen people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham; He raised and protected them, and at times led them through the discipline of trials and hardships. He comforted them by sending prophets who promised that in the future He would send them a Messiah. He had the people erect tabernacles and temples in preparation for the Messiah. He sent the wise men from the East as well as Simon, Anna, John the Baptist and others to testify widely to the birth and the appearance of the Messiah.
Especially concerning the birth of John the Baptist, all the Jews knew that the angel appeared to testify to his conception (Luke 1:13); and the signs which occurred at the time of his birth stirred all Judea in expectation (Luke 1:63-66). Besides, his ascetic practices in the wilderness were so impressive that the Jewish people questioned in their hearts whether perhaps he were the Christ (Luke 3:15). Needless to say, God sent such a great man as John the Baptist to bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah so that the Jewish people would believe in Jesus. Since God's will was thus to have the Israelites believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Israelites, who were supposed to live according to God's will, should have believed in him as the Messiah. If they had believed in Jesus as the Messiah according to God's will, how could they have crucified him, after having waited for him for such a long time? It was because, against God's will, they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, that the Israelites crucified him. We, therefore, must realize that Jesus did not come to die on the cross.
Next, let us further investigate, according to Jesus' own words and deeds, whether his crucifixion was truly the means to fulfill the whole purpose of his coming as the Messiah. As the Bible clearly states, Jesus expressed in both word and deed his wish to have the people believe he was the Messiah. When the people asked him what they must do to be doing the works of God, Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He has sent." (John 6:29).
Jesus grieved over the treachery of the Jewish people; and finding none to appeal to, he wept over the city of Jerusalem and even cursed the city to be destroyed so utterly that not one stone would be left upon another, not to mention the Israelites, the chosen people, whom God had led in love and care for 2000 years. Jesus clearly pointed out their ignorance, saying, "...you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:44).
Jesus lamented over the disbelief and stubbornness of the people, saying:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt. 23:37)
Jesus reproached them for their ignorance which kept them from believing in him even though they read the Scriptures, which testified to him, and he said in great sorrow:
You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)
Again, he said sorrowfully, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me", and he went on to say, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me." (John 5:43-46).
Jesus performed many miracles and signs in the hope that he might restore the people's belief. However, they condemned him as being possessed by Beelzebub when they saw the amazing works which Jesus did. Seeing the painful situation, Jesus said, "...even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." (John 10:38). On another occasion, he even cursed them in great indignation, prophesying that they would suffer (Matt. 23:13-36). Jesus himself, through his words and deeds, tried to make them believe in him, because it was God's will for them to do so. If the Jewish people believed that he was the Messiah, as both God and Jesus wanted, could they have crucified him?
From the above, we can see that Jesus' crucifixion was the result of the ignorance and disbelief of the Jewish people and was not God's predestination to fulfill the whole purpose of Jesus' coming as the Messiah. I Corinthians 2:8 says, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.". This should be sufficient proof.
If Jesus' crucifixion had originally been God's predestination, how could he have prayed even three times that the cup of death might pass from him? (Matt. 26:39). In fact, he thus prayed desperately because he knew too well that the history of affliction would be prolonged until the time of the Second Advent if the disbelief of the people should forbid the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, which God had endeavored to establish.
In John 3:14 we read, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.". When the Israelites were on their way from Egypt into the land of Canaan, they failed to believe in Moses, and at that time fiery serpents appeared and began to kill the people; then God had a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole, and those who looked at it survived. Similarly, due to the Jewish people's disbelief in Jesus, all were destined to hell; and Jesus, foreseeing that after his crucifixion as the "bronze serpent" only those who looked at him and believed in him would be saved, said this with a deeply sorrowful heart.
Another way we may know that Jesus was crucified due to the disbelief of the people is from the fact, as Jesus foretold, that the chosen nation of Israel declined after his death (Luke 19:44).
Isaiah 9:6-7 says:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
This is the prediction that Jesus would come upon the throne of David and establish a kingdom that would never perish throughout eternity. Therefore, an angel appeared to Mary at the time she conceived Jesus and said:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the son of the Most high; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)
From these passages, we can see plainly that God called the Israelites, the chosen people, and had led them through afflictions and hardships for 2000 years, in order to establish an everlasting Kingdom of God on earth by sending Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus came as the Messiah; but, due to the disbelief of and persecution by the people, he was crucified. Since then, the Jews have lost their qualification as the chosen people and have been scattered, suffering persecution through the present day.
4. THE LIMIT OF SALVATION THROUGH REDEMPTION BY THE CROSS, AND THE PURPOSE OF THE LORD'S SECOND ADVENT
If Jesus had not been crucified, what would have happened? He would have accomplished the providence of salvation both spiritually and physically. He would have established the Kingdom of Heaven on earth which would last forever, as expressed in the prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 9:6-7), in the instruction of the angel appearing to Mary (Luke 1:31-33), and in Jesus' own words announcing the imminence of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 4:17).
God first created man's flesh with the earth, and then He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and made him into a living soul (Gen. 2:7). Man was created to have both spirit and body; his fall also came about both spiritually and physically. Naturally, salvation must include both spirit and body.
Since the purpose of Jesus' advent as the Messiah was to accomplish the providence of restoration, he should have fulfilled the salvation of both spirit and body. To believe in Jesus means to become one body with him; therefore, Jesus likened himself to the true vine, and his followers to its branches (John 15:5). He said, "...you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." (John 14:20). Jesus said this because coming in the flesh, he wanted to save fallen men both spiritually and physically. If they had become one with him in both spirit and body by believing in him, fallen men could have been saved both spiritually and physically. Because the Jewish people disbelieved Jesus and delivered him up for crucifixion, his body was invaded by Satan, and he was killed. Therefore, even when Christians believe in and become one body with Jesus, whose body was invaded by Satan, their bodies still remain subject to Satan's invasion.
In this manner, however devout a man of faith may be, he cannot fulfill physical salvation by redemption through Jesus' crucifixion alone. Since the original sin lineally transmitted from Adam has not been liquidated, any saint, however devout he may be, still has original sin and cannot help giving birth to the children of original sin. To prevent the condition of Satanic invasion which constantly comes through the flesh due to the original sin, we have to torment and deny our flesh, in order to live a religious life. We must pray constantly (I Thess. 5:17) in order to prevent the condition of Satanic invasion that comes because of original sin, which has not been annihilated, even through redemption by the cross.
Jesus could not accomplish the purpose of the providence of physical salvation because his body was invaded by Satan. However, he could establish the basis for spiritual salvation by forming a triumphant foundation for resurrection through the redemption by the blood of the cross. Therefore, all the saints since the resurrection of Jesus through the present day have enjoyed the benefit of the providence of spiritual salvation only. Salvation through redemption by the cross is spiritual only. Even in devout men of faith, the original sin remains in the flesh and is transmitted continuously from generation to generation. The more devout a saint becomes in his faith, therefore, the more severe becomes his fight against sin. Thus, Christ must come again on the earth to accomplish the purpose of the providence of the physical, as well as the spiritual salvation, by redeeming the original sin which has not been liquidated even through the cross.
As mentioned before, even the saints redeemed by the cross have had to continue to fight against original sin. That is why even Paul, who was the center of faith among the disciples, lamented over his inability to prevent sin from invading his flesh, saying, "...So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." (Rom. 7:22-25). He said this to express the joy of the fulfillment of spiritual salvation as well as to deplore the failure to accomplish physical salvation. Again, in I John 1:8-10 John confessed, saying:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us...If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Thus, we who can gain salvation through the crucifixion of Jesus cannot escape from being sinners because the original sin still works in us.
5. TWO KINDS OF PROPHECY CONCERNING THE CROSS
What must be the reason, then, that in Isaiah 53 Jesus' suffering on the cross is prophesied, if his crucifixion was not the result of God's predestination? Until now, many people have thought that the prophecies in the Bible about Jesus foretold only his suffering. When we read the Bible anew with a knowledge of the Principle, we can understand that, just as the prophet Isaiah foretold in the Old Testament Age (Is. 9, 11, 60), and as the angel of God prophesied to Mary, Jesus was expected to become king of the Jews in his lifetime and establish on earth an everlasting kingdom of which "there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33). Let us then investigate why there were two kinds of prophecies.
God created man to be perfected only by accomplishing his portion of responsibility (cf. Part I, Ch. 1, Sec. V, 2.2--55). However, in actuality, the first human ancestors fell without having accomplished their portion of responsibility. Thus, man could either accomplish his portion of responsibility in accordance with God's will, or, on the contrary, not accomplish it against God's will.
To give an example from the Bible, it was man's portion of responsibility not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam could perfect himself by obeying God's commandment not to eat of the fruit; on the other hand, he could die by eating the fruit, as actually happened. God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of the Old Testament Age as a condition of man's responsibility in the providence of salvation. Thus, man could be saved by keeping the Commandments, or be ruined by not keeping them. It was the Israelites' portion of responsibility to obey Moses' command on their way from Egypt to the blessed land of Canaan. They could enter the blessed land of Canaan by obeying Moses' command, or not enter it by disobeying his command. In fact, God willed that Moses lead the Israelites into the blessed land of Canaan (Ex. 3:8) and commanded him to do so; but due to their disbelief, the people perished in the wilderness, leaving only their posterity to reach the destination.
Man thus has his own responsibility to accomplish, and he may fulfill it according to God's will or not fulfill it against His will, thus resulting in only one of the two possibilities being realized. Therefore, it was inevitable for God to give two kinds of prophecy regarding the fulfillment of His will.
It was God's portion of responsibility to send the Messiah, but to believe in him was man's responsibility. Therefore, the Jewish people could either believe in the Messiah according to God's will or not believe in him, against His will. Therefore, God had to give two kinds of prophecy, thus providing for two possible results, according to man's success or failure to accomplish his responsibility. God prophesied both about what might happen if the Jewish people failed to believe in the Messiah, as was written in Isaiah 53, and about what would happen if they fulfilled His will in glory by believing in and serving the Messiah, as was recorded in Isaiah 9, 11, and 60, and Luke 1:30. However, due to the disbelief of the people, Jesus died on the cross, and the prophecy of Isaiah 53 was realized, thus leaving the others to be accomplished after the Lord's Second Advent.
6. BIBLICAL VERSES WRITTEN AS IF JESUS' CRUCIFIXION WERE INEVITABLE
In the Bible we find many verses written as if Jesus' suffering through crucifixion were inevitable. One of the representative examples of this is that Jesus reproached Peter, who tried to dissuade him when he prophesied about his suffering on the cross, and said, "Get behind me, Satan!" (Matt. 16:23). Otherwise, how could Jesus reproach Peter so bitterly? In fact, Jesus was then resolved to take the cross as the condition of indemnity to pay for the accomplishment of even the spiritual salvation of man when he found that he was unable to accomplish the providence of both spiritual and physical salvation (Luke 9:31). In that situation, Peter's dissuading him from taking the way of the cross was a hindrance to the providence of spiritual salvation through the cross; so, he reproached Peter.
In the next place, when Jesus uttered his last words on the cross, saying, "It is finished" (John 19:30), he did not mean that the whole purpose of the providence of salvation was attained through the cross. Knowing that the disbelief of the people was at that point inalterable, Jesus chose the way of the cross in order to establish the foundation of the providence of spiritual salvation, leaving the providence of physical salvation to the time of the Second Advent. Therefore, Jesus meant by the words "it is finished" that he finished establishing the basis for the providence of spiritual salvation through the cross, which was the secondary providence of salvation.
In order for us to have a right faith, we must first establish direct rapport with God in spirit through ardent prayer and next, we must understand the truth through correct reading of the Bible. This is the reason that Jesus told us to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
From the time of Jesus through the present, all Christians have thought that Jesus came to the world to die. This is because they did not know the fundamental purpose of Jesus' coming as the Messiah and entertained the wrong idea that spiritual salvation was the only mission for which Jesus came to the world. Jesus came to accomplish the will of God in his lifetime, but had to die a reluctant death due to the disbelief of the people. There must first appear on the earth the bride who can relieve the humiliated and grieving heart of Jesus before Christ as the bridegroom can come again--this time to complete his mission with his bride. Jesus said, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8) in lamentation over the possible ignorance of the people, which he could foresee.
We have clarified the fact that Jesus did not come to die, but if we ask Jesus directly through spiritual communication, we can see the fact even more clearly. When direct rapport is impossible, we should seek the testimony of someone with such a gift in order to have the kind of faith that will entitle us to be the "bride", in order to receive the Messiah.
SECTION II - THE SECOND ADVENT OF ELIJAH AND JOHN THE BAPTIST
It was foretold by the prophet Malachi that Elijah would come again (Mal. 4:5), and it was Jesus' testimony that John the Baptist was none other than the second advent of Elijah (Matt. 11:14, 17:13). However, John the Baptist himself, as well as the Jewish people in general, did not know the fact that John was the second advent of Elijah (John 1:21). John's doubt of Jesus (Matt. 11:3), followed by the disbelief of the people, finally compelled Jesus to take the way of the cross.
1. THE TREND OF JEWISH THOUGHT CONCERNING THE SECOND ADVENT OF ELIJAH
During the period of the United Kingdom, the "ideal of the temple" was invaded by Satan, due to the corruption of King Solomon.
God set up the ideal of the temple the second time. In order to prepare the people to receive the Messiah as the substantial temple, He worked for the separation from Satan by sending them four major prophets and twelve minor prophets. It was to stop Satan from preventing the realization of this ideal that God had his people destroy the god Baal by sending his special prophet Elijah and having him fight against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. However, Elijah ascended into heaven without having fully accomplished his divine mission (II Kings 2:11), and Satan's power was again rampant.
Therefore, in order that the ideal of the substantial temple, Jesus, might be realized, there should first be the providence of having another prophet succeed Elijah and accomplish the mission of separating Satan, which he had left undone on the earth. Because of this providential necessity, the prophet Malachi foretold the second advent of Elijah (Mal. 4:5).
The fervent hope of the Jewish people who believed in these prophecies was, of course, the advent of the Messiah. But we must know that they nonetheless longed for the second coming of Elijah. This is because God clearly promised the people, through the prophet Malachi, that He would send the prophet Elijah prior to the advent of the Messiah in order to have him prepare the way of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). Meanwhile, the prophet Elijah had ascended into heaven nearly 900 years before the birth of Jesus (II Kings 2:11), and we are familiar with the occasion when he appeared to Jesus' disciples in spirit (Luke 9:31). The Jewish people believed that Elijah, being in heaven, would come from heaven in the same manner as he had ascended into heaven. Therefore, the Jewish people of that time were waiting for Elijah to come again, looking up into heaven in the expectation that Elijah would come on the clouds.
However, there had been as yet no rumor of Elijah's coming as Malachi had prophesied, when Jesus appeared, claiming to be the Messiah; thus, great confusion was caused in Jerusalem. So, the disciples were faced with an argument against Jesus' being the Messiah (Matt. 17:10): if Jesus were he, then where was Elijah who was to come before him? (Mal. 4:5). The disciples, at a loss as to how to reply, asked Jesus directly; and he answered that John the Baptist was none other than Elijah himself, for whom they had waited (Matt. 11:14, 17:13). Jesus' disciples, who believed him to be the Messiah, could believe without question Jesus' testimony that John the Baptist was Elijah. But how could the Jewish people accept it, when they did not know who Jesus was? Jesus himself, knowing that they would not easily believe his testimony, said, "If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come." (Matt. 11:14). The Jewish people could not believe Jesus' testimony that John the Baptist was Elijah because it came after John himself clearly denied the fact (John 1:21).
2. THE WAY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Jesus said that John the Baptist was none other than Elijah, for whom the Jewish people had waited so long (Matt. 11:14), while on the contrary, John the Baptist himself had already denied the fact. Then, whose words were they to believe and follow? It depended upon which of the two appeared to be more believable to the people at that time.
Let us then examine how Jesus appeared to the Jewish people, from their own standpoint. Jesus was a young man of little formal education. He had been born and raised in the poor and lowly home of a carpenter. This young man emerged unknown, calling himself the Lord of the Sabbath, and yet violated the Sabbath which the Jews strictly observed (Matt. 12:1-8). Therefore, Jesus came to be known as one who wanted to abolish the Law, which was the symbol of salvation to the Jews (Matt. 5:17). Therefore, Jesus was persecuted by Jewish leaders and had to gather fishermen to be his disciples. He became a friend to tax-collectors, harlots, and sinners, eating and drinking with them (Matt. 11:19). More than that, Jesus declared that the tax-collectors and harlots would enter the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of the Jewish leaders. (Matt. 21:31).
On one occasion, a woman, weeping, began to wet Jesus' feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, kiss them and anoint them with a flask of precious ointment (Luke 7:37-38). Such conduct would not be acceptable even in today's society and how much more unacceptable it would have been within the strict ethics of Jewish society, in which they could stone an adulterous woman to death. Nevertheless, Jesus not only accepted it, but reproached his disciples, who had rebuked the woman; in fact, he also praised her (Luke 7:44-50, Matt. 26:7-13).
Moreover, Jesus placed himself on the same level as God (John 14:9) and said that no one could enter the Kingdom of Heaven except through him (John 14:6). He even said that people should love him more than their parents, brothers, husband or wife and their children (Matt. 10:37, Luke 14:26).
Because of the attitude which Jesus' words and actions seemed to convey, the Jewish leaders derided him and accused him of being Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons (Matt. 12:24). From all this we can gather that Jesus was not accepted by the Jews of that time.
Next, let us investigate how John the Baptist appeared to the Jewish people. John was born to a distinguished family as a son of Zechariah, a chief priest (Luke 1:13). His birth greatly surprised the whole city because of the miracles and signs surrounding his conception. His father, burning incense in the holy place, saw the angel of the Lord, who announced that his wife would conceive a son. Upon disbelieving the angel's words, Zechariah was struck dumb, and his speech was restored only upon the birth of the child (Luke 1:9-66). Moreover, John led a brilliant life of faith and discipline, living on locusts and wild honey in the wilderness, and he appeared so admirable to the Jewish people that even the chief priests, as well as the people in general, asked him if he were the Messiah (Luke 3:15, John 1:20).
Considering the above, when we compare Jesus and John the Baptist from the standpoint of the Jewish people, whose words would they be more likely to believe? It was only natural for them to believe the words of John the Baptist. Consequently, they had to believe John's words when he denied being Elijah more than they believed Jesus' testimony that John the Baptist was Elijah. Since the Jewish people came to believe the words of John the Baptist, Jesus' testimony appeared to be false, and thus he was condemned as an imposter.
In this way, Jesus was condemned as a man of reckless words and his manner was offensive to the Jewish people. Their disbelief in Jesus became aggravated by degrees. Since the Jewish people believed the words of John the Baptist rather than those of Jesus, they had to think that Elijah had not yet come; accordingly, they could not even imagine that the Messiah had arrived.
From this viewpoint, the Jews had to deny Jesus, who claimed to be the Messiah, because, from the standpoint of believers in the prophecy of Malachi, they could not believe that Elijah had come. Otherwise, they would have to deny the Scriptures, which prophesied that the coming of the Messiah would take place after the return of Elijah. In this way, the Jewish people, who could not abandon the prophecy in the Scriptures, were compelled to choose the way of disbelief in Jesus.
3. THE DISBELIEF OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
As already discussed in detail, the chief priests as well as all the Jewish people of that time respected John the Baptist to such a degree that they thought he might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15, John 1:20). Consequently, if John the Baptist had declared himself to be Elijah as Jesus testified he was, the Jewish people, who expected Elijah's return before the coming of the Messiah, would have come to Jesus, because they were accustomed to believing the testimony of John the Baptist. However, the ignorance of God's providence on the part of John the Baptist, who protested to the last moment that he was not Elijah, was the principal cause blocking the way of the people to Jesus.
John the Baptist once testified:
I baptize you with water for 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 with fire. (Matt. 3:11)
Again in John 1:33-34 he confessed, saying:
I myself did not know him; but he [God] who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit [Christ].'. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
In this way, God directly manifested to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah, and even John himself testified to him as such, while in John 1:23 he said he came with the mission of making straight the way of the Messiah. In addition, he declared in John 3:28 that he was the one who had been sent before the Christ. Therefore, John the Baptist should have known through his own wisdom that he was Elijah. Even if John the Baptist had not realized on his own that he was Elijah, he should have nonetheless declared that he was Elijah in obedience to Jesus' testimony, since he knew Jesus as the Messiah through the testimony from God (John 1:33-34), and he knew that Jesus bore witness that John was Elijah.
However, John not only denied Jesus' testimony (John 1:21) from his ignorance of God's will (Matt. 11:19), but he also deviated form the direction of providence even after that. We can well imagine how sad Jesus must have been when he had to regard John the Baptist in that way, not to mention the sorrow of God, when He looked at His son who was placed in such a difficult situation.
In fact, the mission of John the Baptist as the witness ended with his baptizing of and testifying to Jesus. Then what should his mission have been after that? His father Zechariah, moved by the Holy Spirit, said about John, who had just been born: "we...might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways..." (Luke 1:74-76), thus prophesying clearly about his mission. John the Baptist should have ministered to Jesus as a disciple, after having testified to him. Nevertheless, he went about baptizing people separately from Jesus, thus confusing the Jewish people (Luke 3:15), even the chief priests (John 1:20). Further, the disciples of Jesus and the followers of John quarreled about "purification" among themselves, each saying that his own teacher baptized more people (John 3:25-26). Besides, John 3:30 tells us eloquently that John the Baptist did not bear the same fate with Jesus, who said, "He must increase, but I must decrease.". How could he ever decrease while Jesus increased, if he shared the same destiny with Jesus? In fact, the gospel of Jesus should have been proclaimed by John the Baptist himself. But through ignorance, he could not accomplish his mission, and at last he degraded his life, which was to have been devoted to Jesus, to a thing of practically no value.
John the Baptist knew Jesus was the Messiah, and when John was on God's side, he testified to him. But when God no longer directly inspired him, and John returned to his normal state, his disbelief of Jesus became aggravated by his ignorance. John the Baptist, who did not realize that he was Elijah, regarded Jesus from the same standpoint as other people, especially after John's imprisonment. Accordingly, everything Jesus said or did seemed, from the merely human standpoint of John the Baptist, to be strange and incomprehensible. Moreover, John himself could not believe that Jesus, who had appeared before the coming of Elijah, was the Messiah. At last John sent his disciples to Jesus in an attempt to remove his doubt, by asking him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (Matt. 11:3).
Jesus, so questioned, answered indignantly, with an air of admonition (Matt. 11:4-10). John the Baptist was chosen by God while he was still in his mother's womb for the mission of serving Him throughout his life (Luke 1:76), and was trained in the wilderness, leading the bitter life of an ascetic, in order to prepare the way of the Lord. When Jesus started his public ministry, God first told John who Jesus was, then had him testify to Jesus' being the Son of God. When John the Baptist, who was failing to fulfill his mission and blessing from heaven, asked Jesus such a question, Jesus did not answer straightforwardly that he was the Messiah, which should have been plain enough. He answered in a roundabout way, saying:
Go and tell John what you hear and see! The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matt. 11:4-5)
Of course, John the Baptist was not ignorant of such miracles and wonders done by Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus gave such a lengthy explanation in order to let him know who he was by reminding John the Baptist of what he was doing.
We must understand that when Jesus said the poor had good news preached to them (Matt. 11:5), he was indicating his grief over the disbelief of the Jewish people, and especially that of John the Baptist. The chosen people of Israel, especially John, had been richly blessed with divine love and care. Nevertheless, they betrayed Jesus, and he was compelled to wander about the seacoast of Galilee through the region of Samaria to search among the poor for those who would listen to the Gospel. The ignorant fishermen, tax-collectors and harlots were such poor people. Actually, the disciples Jesus would have preferred were not people of this kind. Jesus, having come to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, was more in need of one person qualified to lead a thousand than one thousand following him blindly. Did he not, therefore, first preach the Gospel in the temple to the chief priests and scribes in search of those who were able and well prepared?
However, as Jesus indicated in a parable, he had to call beggars roaming about on the street to the feast, because the invited had not come. Jesus, who himself had to go about bringing in those who were uninvited, at last uttered bitter words of judgment in deep lamentation, saying, "blessed is he who takes no offense at me." (Matt. 11:6). Jesus predicted John the Baptist's destiny by saying, indirectly, that one who took offense at him would not be blessed, however great he might be.
On the contrary, it was John the Baptist who had offended Jesus. How did John the Baptists offend him? John failed to carry out his mission of serving and ministering to Jesus.
After the disciples of John the Baptist left him, Jesus said:
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matt. 11:11)
indicating that, from the standpoint of his ministry, John the Baptist had come originally as the greatest of all the prophets, but that he was failing to accomplish his mission.
All those in heaven had once been born of women and lived their earthly lives before they died. Therefore, it would have been natural for him who was the greatest of all those born of women to be the greatest also in heaven. Then, why was John the Baptist worse than he who was least in the Kingdom of heaven? Numerous prophets in the past had testified to the Messiah from a distance, looking forward to his coming in the future. But John the Baptist came with the mission of testifying to the Messiah directly. Since it was the mission of the prophets to testify to the Messiah, John the Baptist, who was to testify to the Messiah directly, was greater than any of the other prophets, who testified to him indirectly. However, seen from the point of ministering to the Messiah, he was the least one. This is because the least in the Kingdom of Heaven recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and serves him, while John the Baptist, who was called for the mission of serving him closely in person (Luke 1:76), did not prepare the way of Jesus and failed to serve him. Jesus went on to say, "From John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it.". If John the Baptist, who was chosen in the womb and trained in so difficult an ascetic life in the wilderness, had only served Jesus as he should, he would no doubt have become his chief disciple. But since John failed to accomplish his mission of serving Jesus, Peter took the position of chief disciple.
In the passage, "From John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence", Jesus was not referring to the failure of people in general, but that of John the Baptist himself. If John had acted wisely, he would not have left Jesus, and his deeds would have remained for eternity as righteous; but, unfortunately, he blocked the way for the Jewish people to go to Jesus, as well as his own way.
Here, we have come to understand that the greatest factor leading to the crucifixion of Jesus was the failure of John the Baptist. Paul lamented over the ignorance of the people, including John the Baptist, who crucified Jesus, saying:
None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (I Cor. 2:8)
4. THE REASON THAT JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS ELIJAH
According to what we have previously stated (cf. Sec. II, 1--153), we can see that John the Baptist came to succeed Elijah and accomplish the mission which Elijah had left unaccomplished on earth. As Luke 1:17 says, John was born with the mission of going before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. For this reason, John was the second advent of Elijah from the standpoint of their identical mission. Details will be clarified in the chapter on "Resurrection", but we know now that Elijah descended in spirit to John the Baptist. By cooperating with John the Baptist he tried to accomplish his mission, which he had left unaccomplished during his physical life on earth, through the physical body of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was in the position of representing Elijah's physical body, making himself identical with Elijah from the standpoint of their mission
5. OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD THE BIBLE
We have learned from our study of the Bible that the ignorance and disbelief of John the Baptist brought about the disbelief of the Jewish people, which finally compelled Jesus to take the way of crucifixion. Since the time of Jesus until the present, no one has been able to reveal this heavenly secret. This is because we have hitherto read the Bible from the standpoint that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet of all. We have learned from the story of John the Baptist that we must abandon the conservative attitude of faith which has caused us to be afraid to remove old traditional concepts. If it would be unjust to believe that John the Baptist had failed to accomplish his mission when he actually succeeded, it would also no doubt be wrong to believe that he fulfilled his mission, when on the contrary he had failed to do so. We must struggle to obtain the right way of faith, both in spirit and truth.
We have now brought to light the true nature of the story of John the Baptist as demonstrated in the Bible. Any Christian who, in spiritual communication, can see John the Baptist directly in the spirit world will be able to understand the authenticity of all these things.