John the Baptist and Jesus Christ: Why Were Their Identities Different?

Brothers and sisters of Spiritual Q&A:

Hello everyone! I have a question I would like to pursue: The Lord Jesus and John the Baptist were both born by promise. John also did much work and said: “Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and preached the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. But why was the identity of John different from that of the Lord Jesus? I hope I can receive your answers.

John the Baptist and Jesus

Sincerely yours,

Zhang Yu

Brother Zhang Yu,

Hello! I used to have the same confusion as you do. Later, at a gathering, a co-worker helped me investigate this question on a gospel website, and the fellowship of the brothers and sisters brought me to some understanding of why the identity of the Lord Jesus was different from that of John. Now, I would like to share it with you.

With regard to this question, we need to find the answer in the Bible. Let’s first see the background to the birth of John. The Bible tells us that the mother of John, Elizabeth was barren, and that she and her husband Zachariah both were old. Zachariah prayed to God about this. Then an angel said to him, “For your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). From these verses we can see: Before the birth of John, the angel had already spoken out about the identity of John, and said that John would have the spirit and power of Elijah who was a prophet in the Old Testament Age of Law. Actually, John was the reincarnation of Elijah. This can also be confirmed from other verses in the Bible: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Jehovah” (Malachi 4:5). “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said to them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say to you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done to him whatever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10-13).

Before the birth of John, the angel said, “… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). After John was born, Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:76). “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:3). From these verses we can see that the mission of John was to pave the way for the work of the Lord Jesus, and his identity was a prophet. Because of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, John also knew that he was a man to pave the way for the Lord Jesus, and he began to perform his duty and fulfill his mission after he grew up. Just as the Bible says, “And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There comes one mightier than I after me, the lace of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:6-8). From this we can see that though John also spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, he was just an ordinary man, and just a prophet who paved the way for the Lord and did the work of preparation. With him to pave the way, the Lord Jesus could better carry out the work of the Age of Grace.

Up to this point, the identity of John is clear. Then let us look at Luke 1:30-35 to see the identity of the Lord Jesus: “And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary to the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” There is a prophecy in Isaiah that reads: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Before the birth of Jesus, an angel spoke out about the identity of Jesus—the Son of God, that is, God Himself. Moreover, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the identity of Jesus was God.

Now, let us see some other verses: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him: And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). “He said to them, But whom say you that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). From these verses, we see that when the Lord Jesus was baptized and began to fulfill His ministry, the Holy Spirit personally bore witness that the Lord Jesus is the beloved Son of God, and that when the Lord Jesus asked Peter who He was, Peter, having received the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spoke out about His identity—the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). From the above verses, we can know clearly that the identity of Jesus was that of Christ, was God.

Now, we learn that though the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist were both born by promise, their identities were markedly different. The Lord Jesus is the incarnation of God, the Christ, while John was merely a prophet—a man used by God.

In addition, from the difference between their work’s natures, we can also see their different identities. Just as God’s word says, “The work done by John and that done by Jesus were not alike as well as of different natures. It is from this that one determines whether or not he is God. The work of Jesus was to initiate, to continue, to conclude, and to bring to fruition. He carried out each of these steps, whereas the work of John was no more than making a beginning. In the beginning, Jesus spread the gospel and preached the way of repentance, and then went on to baptize man, heal the sick, and cast out demons. In the end, He redeemed mankind from sin and completed His work for the entire age. He also went about in every place, preaching to man and spreading the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. In this regard He and John were alike, the difference being that Jesus ushered in a new age and brought the Age of Grace to man. From His mouth came the word on what man should practice and the way that man should follow in the Age of Grace, and in the end, He finished the work of redemption. John could never have carried out this work. And so it was Jesus who did the work of God Himself, and it is He who is God Himself, and who directly represents God.

After reading this passage of God’s words, we can learn this: From the outside, the Lord Jesus and John were both ordinary and regular people, so it is difficult to distinguish between their respective identities, but it can be done through their works. At that time, although John also preached, “Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and many people followed him, his work was only to pave the way for the Lord Jesus and spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven to people, so that people were able to keep pace with God’s work. But he couldn’t show people the way of repentance in detail, so after hearing the gospel spread by him, people at that time only knew to repent but didn’t have a way of practice, still restricted by the laws. Because John’s identity was a man, he was not equipped with the truth, nor was he able to express the truth, much less bring people the way, the truth, and the life. When the Lord Jesus began to perform His ministry, though He also spread the way of repentance and outwardly He was an ordinary and normal man, He possessed divine substance. He not only could usher in a new age and end the old age, but could express the truth and indicate a way of practice for people. For example, when Peter asked Jesus, “how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” the Lord Jesus said to him, “I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (See Matthew 18:21-22). Another example: The Lord Jesus told people that following the will of the heavenly Father is the standard for entering the kingdom of heaven (See Matthew 7:21-23). Words expressed by the Lord Jesus helped people clearly understand God’s will and showed them the direction of practice. More importantly, the Lord Jesus was incarnated to become the sin offering and do the work of crucifixion to save man from sin. Only when people were absolved from their sins did they have the chance to come before God to pray and repent, and receive His salvation. If the Lord Jesus hadn’t done so, all people would have been convicted by law and put to death under the law. Neither John nor anyone else can do the work of redeeming mankind. Only the Lord Jesus can do this work.

So, through the two aspects mentioned above, we can see why the identities of the Lord Jesus and John were not the same.

I hope the fellowship and understanding above is of benefit to you.

Sincerely yours,

Spiritual Q&A

Maybe you also like to read: Jesus Raising Lazarus Fully Shows His Identity and Authority

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