A few years ago a prominent religious leader declared that the greatest need of the modern church and world is a prophetic message, and he should have added, preached by a prophetic people—a message predicted in Bible prophecy and proclaimed by a people described in Bible prophecy. It is our purpose to declare that just such a message is now being heralded to all the world by such a people.
Of the heaven-inspired message of John the Baptist we read: "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. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias" (John 1:19-23).
John knew his identity and divinely appointed mission because he found himself and his message in Bible prophecy. He knew who he was and why he was in the world, and quoted prophecy to prove it. He reminded the delegation from JerusaIem of the prophetic forecast of the forerunner of the Messiah recorded by the prophet Isaiah, and declared that he was fulfilling it.
John not only knew who he was but also who he was not, which is very important, and never more so than in these last days when so many deluded men and women are sure they are who and what they are not. To illustrate: Lecturing to a class of medical students on various phases of mental disorders, the director of a psychopathic clinic invited patients afflicted with the disturbance under discussion to participate. On one occasion he announced, "Today we are honored to have as our guest speaker the President of the United States, the Honorable William Howard Taft." A fine-looking man arose and gave a speech that Mr. Taft might well have been proud of. While we all knew that he was sincere, we also knew that he was not who he claimed to be. The director then said that he had another wonderful privilege, that of presenting the wealthiest man in the world, whom he had asked to tell us how rich he was and how he obtained his wealth. When the speaker got through his talk there was no money left for anybody else. We knew that he also was sincere but terribly deceived.
Someone may say, "Of course, this can be expected in a mental institution." That is true, but there are many outside of these institutions who are just as badly deceived as to their identity and mission in life. For a number of years in Seattle, Washington, a tall and fine-looking man, with long white whiskers, wearing a blue robe, and with a staff in his hand, appeared suddenly on one of the main streets from time to time and stood in a pose before the passing people. Who was he? He was absolutely sure he was Elijah the prophet, but everybody else knew that he was deluded and was not who he thought he was.
At a General Conference session in San Francisco, a young man approached me with the request for an interview. As soon as we were seated in a quiet place in the Civic Auditorium he handed me his card, on which was written: "Elijah, the prophet of Malachi 4:5. Called, trained, and ordained of God to do a great work. To be a prophet, preacher, and healer, and to call the righteous into the kingdom of God." I knew of a certainty that he was not the person he claimed to be, and spent about an hour trying to persuade him that he was deceived and was one of the false prophets Jesus said would appear before the end. I failed to make any impression on him whatever.
While I was president of one of our conferences, four women in that field were sure that they possessed the prophetic gift and each imagined that she had been divinely called to succeed Ellen G. White as God's special messenger. By letters and visits each tried to guide me in administering the work in the conference, and all of my efforts to convince them that they were deluded were unavailing. Experiences of the past clearly teach us that impostors and self-appointed leaders of offshoot movements must profess to possess the prophetic gift, or claim to be God's special messenger, or they could not get a hearing and accomplish their deceiving purpose.
In speaking of the church of Ephesus, Jesus said: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars" (Rev. 2:2). There were many of these liars and pretenders in apostolic days. Jesus called those who pretended to be what they were not, "hypocrites," a term then used to describe actors and actresses, who always played the part of another. The Phillips translation uses the term "play actors," which is a very appropriate translation. According to the predictions of Christ and the apostles, and in scores of places in the writings of Ellen G. White, these play actors will appear in increasing numbers in the last days and constitute one of the chief signs of the second coming of Christ.
John the Baptist knew he was not the Christ, the expected Messiah, even though we are told in Luke 3:15 that "the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not." Why did this universal expectation among the Jews prevail? Because they had the absolute proof in the 2300-year time prophecy of Daniel, and many other prophetic predictions, that the Messiah would appear at that very time, and naturally they were interested when any leader attracted special attention, and especially when John was attracting thousands out into the desert to hear him preach. For this reason the delegation was sent to ask him whether he was the Christ, the Anointed One. He answered without a moment's hesitation, "I am not the Christ," or as rendered in Acts 13:25, "'I am not what you think I am.' "—The New English Bible.*
He also told the committee sent by the Jewish leaders that he was not the expected Elijah, whose coming was predicted in Malachi 4:5, 6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." On the basis of this prophecy the Jews believed and taught that Elijah would appear in person as the chief herald of the Messiah. The statement of Jesus that John was the expected Elijah was explained by the angel Gabriel as recorded in Luke 1:11-17. The angel told Zacharias that his prayers and those of Elisabeth his wife had been answered, and that in their old age they would have a son and should call his name John. Instead of being Elijah in person, John would go before the Messiah "in the spirit and power of Elias" to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord," or, "to make a people perfectly ready for the Lord," as rendered by Weymouth. There is a big difference between being Elijah in person, and preaching a message in the spirit and power he manifested.
John also knew that he was not "that prophet" predicted by Moses. The Jews misinterpreted this prophecy to mean another of the ancient prophets who would appear in person as another herald of the Messiah. John not only knew who he was not, but he also knew of a certainty who he was, and without a moment's hesitation quoted the forecast of Isaiah to prove it. He was not the Messiah, but was His herald and forerunner and knew that the Christ would appear at any time. In John 1:29 we are told that "The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him, 'Look,' he said, 'there is the Lamb of God; it is he who takes away the sin of the world.' "—The New English Bible.* He knew who Jesus was because of what happened at His baptism when the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon Him and a voice from heaven announced, "This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."
It was because John found himself and his message in Bible prophecy that his preaching had such a ring of confidence, certainty, and authority. This was so different from that of the scribes and Pharisees, and it attracted many thousands of all classes out into the wilderness to hear his heaven-sent message. This same ring of certainty and authority is characteristic of God's last prophetic message, which is preparing a people for the second advent of our Lord, and of this fact many thousands are willing to bear testimony.
That the Elijah message predicted through Malachi and the angel Gabriel has a double application and will be fulfilled chiefly in the Second Advent message, there can be no question. "The great and dreadful day of the Lord" when Christ comes to "smite the earth with a curse" can apply only to the Second Advent, as can be proved by many texts. That will be the great day of God's wrath and indignation when the terrible curse of the seven last plagues is poured out upon those who reject His last warning message. Then the earth will be laid desolate under the curse of sin for one thousand years as the prison house of Satan and his angels, before it is brought back to its Edenic beauty as the eternal home of the redeemed.
Note the two following statements: "In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, such a work as that of John is to be done. . . . As a people who believe in Christ's soon appearing, we have a message to bear—'Prepare to meet thy God.' Amos 4:12. Our message must be as direct as was the message of John."—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 332, 333. "Just such a work and message as that of John will be carried on in these last days." —Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 150.
While John could find himself and his message in three Bible prophecies, one in Isaiah and two in Malachi, those heralding the Second Advent message can quote many scriptures to show that they are a people of prophecy proclaiming a message of prophecy in a world-embracing movement "to make a people perfectly ready for the Lord" at His second advent.
That the message will fully accomplish this purpose can be proved by many texts, of which the following are samples: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; . . . that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27).
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23). "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:2, 3). "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God" (Rev. 14:5). Verse four in the Weymouth translation says, "They are as pure as virgins." "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (verse 12 t). Is it any wonder that they receive the seal of God and are translated?
This marvelous change in God's remnant people will come through the promised spiritual revival and spiritual reformation that will take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit in the refreshing showers of the early and latter rains and "will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness." For the gift of the Spirit, which will bring all other blessings in its train, every member of the church should be constantly and earnestly praying.
* The New English Bible, New Testament. @ The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961.
Weymouth's New Testament in Modern Speech by Richard Francis Weymouth. Copyright by Harper & Brothers. Used by permission.