THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST—TELLING PEOPLE TO REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS WHICH WAS DRAWING NEAR
Why is it that the living of John the Baptist was so “wild”? The way a person lives should match the kind of occupation he has. For example, one who serves as a soldier should put on a military uniform, and one who serves as a doctor should wear a doctor’s robe; otherwise, they will not be able to fight or work. Since John was born a priest, he should have worn the priestly garment and should have ministered in the temple. Why then did he choose to live in the wilderness, to clothe himself in a wild way, and to eat wild things? Moreover, when he went out to minister, the words of his preaching were also wild. In Matthew 3:1-2 we are told that he appeared, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” According to grammar, this word was spoken altogether in the imperative mood. John did not tell people that they “should” or “ought to” repent; rather, he said, “Repent!” His tone was very direct, wild, and unrefined.
Furthermore, John baptized people in water after they had repented. He did not use the word “bury,” which is a more refined expression. When a person dies, he needs to be properly buried; this is human culture. John, however, “baptized” people in water instead of “burying” them (Matt. 3:11). Baptized in Greek has the meaning of “dipped.” This kind of expression is quite “wild.” When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Offspring of vipers, who prompted you to flee from the coming wrath?” (v. 7). He did not act at all like a refined preacher, for when he saw the religionists, he rebuked them, calling them “offspring of vipers.” Would you not consider him as acting “wildly”?
He behaved in this way to show that he came with the intention to stand against culture, religion, naturalness, tradition, and morality. In the same principle, today when we read the Bible, we must also be against these five matters. This is by no means saying that we should be people who are immoral; instead, what we mean is that we need to take John the Baptist as our pattern. When the crowds asked him, saying, “What then shall we do?” John answered, “He who has two tunics, let him share with the one who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” At that time some tax collectors also came. They collected taxes for the Roman Empire from their fellow Jews, who were a weak and small people. When they asked John what they should do, John did not tell them to resign from being tax collectors, because he was not there to oppose imperialism. He just said, “Exact nothing more than what you have been ordered to.” And when some serving in the military also asked him what they should do, he answered, “Extort nothing from anyone by force, nor take anything by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:10-14). From this we see that John was an ethical person. Nevertheless, he put ethics aside in his walk and living. This is because he knew that he did not come for morality and things of this nature but for preaching the kingdom of God.
For this reason, in the beginning of his ministry John preached the kingdom of God, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near” (Matt. 3:2). What he meant was that everyone had to be prepared because the kingdom of the heavens, the kingdom of God, was drawing near. What is “the kingdom of God”? We must understand that the kingdom of God is God Himself. The Chinese often use world instead of kingdom in such terms as “animal world” and “vegetable world.” In fact, in both Greek and English, these things are called the “animal kingdom” and the “vegetable kingdom.” In the animal world are animals, and in the vegetable world are vegetables. Likewise, in the human world, the human kingdom, are human beings. The human world ceases to exist when human beings are removed from it. In the same principle, the kingdom of God is God Himself, and it is God Himself who becomes everything as the content of the kingdom of God. If God leaves, the kingdom of God will have nothing left in it. Let us take the lions in the zoo as an example. The place where the lions are kept may be called “the lion world” or “the lion kingdom”; but if the lions were taken away, the lion kingdom would cease to exist.
(The Economy of God and the Mystery of the Transmission of the Divine Trinity, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)