John the Baptist was born at a time of silence. There had been no prophetic voice in Israel for 400 years, not since the days of the prophet Malachi. Breaking that silence on the day of his son’s circumcision, John’s father prophesied about this special child and what his mission to Israel would be. He said he would be a forerunner of the Messiah. What he would do is recorded in Luke 1:76-79:
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:76-79)
Never in history had the people of Israel been so desperate for the prophetic light to bring the knowledge of salvation to them. The long period of silence had brought deep darkness and great confusion. They longed to know what salvation was and what they needed to do to get it. It is like that today. The knowledge of salvation still needs to be made known and the forgiveness of sins still needs to come through the tender mercy of God. Therefore, in many ways, this prophecy in Luke 1:77-79 applies to us. It is a message for those living in the last days.
All over the landscape of organized religion in the nations of the world God’s people have been scattered for a long, long, long time. They have been without the prophetic light to gather them into a unified nation. But now the knowledge of salvation is being revealed through the forgiveness of sins. The heart of our God is merciful and full of forgiveness. He is making the Day dawn upon us from on high. When that day dawns and the light rises it will shine upon all those who are sitting in darkness, waiting in the shadow of death. For all those who respond to the light and come out of the place of darkness, this light will guide their feet into the Way of Peace.
Peace comes from the forgiveness of our sins, and as a result, those who experience it no longer need to strive for what the nations eagerly seek after1 — position and status, sex and security, recognition and success. A forgiven person is no longer a part of the world’s problems. He is no longer separated, no longer alienated, no longer full of strife after selfish pursuits. A forgiven person hates his life in this world and loves the place where he can serve his Master2 with his brothers. Where He is (in the hearts of His disciples), that is where His servants are content to be.3 Living this way is the fruit of having peace with God. This is what seeking FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness is all about. Leaving the darkness behind, a forgiven person can come into a unified people. For him nothing else matters.
No one knows what salvation is unless his sins are forgiven, and this comes about through the tender mercies of our God. Salvation transforms a person who is trying to be somebody or to make it by the standards of the world into a person who loves his Savior4 because he was saved from a place he did not want to be in — the darkness. This happens to EVERYONE who has the knowledge of salvation. A saved person is content to do the Father’s will5 and in fact has no reason to do anything else and does not want to do anything else. Such a person who has experienced the knowledge of salvation is devoted to the life depicted in Acts 2:42. This way of life is eternal life. The early disciples in Jerusalem had it, and the oldest written record of it in Acts 2 and 4 spells it out as plain as day. Those who had that life couldn’t help speaking about it. When an angel told the apostles to speak “the whole message of this life,” they obeyed unashamedly.6 Their exuberant overflowing obedience proved that God gives His Holy Spirit only to those who obey Messiah and to no one else.7
What we are talking about here is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 49:6. Isaiah saw ahead to the day when twelve tribes would be raised up again and the preserved ones of Israel would be restored as a nation producing the fruit of the kingdom.8 Isaiah said that this twelve-tribed nation, a people in unity, would be a light to all the other nations and that from this light they will bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.
In his day John the Baptist was the light who brought his people Israel the knowledge of salvation. They rejected him and they rejected the Messiah he proclaimed, who followed close behind. Therefore, the knowledge of salvation must still come forth in these last days in order to fulfill the words of Isaiah. Not even the early church could do it. By the time the book of Revelation was written around 100 A.D., the combined light of their candlesticks was going out. One by one the churches had lost their first love.
The light that is so desperately needed can only happen when forgiven people who know God’s tender mercy toward them proclaim the message of forgiveness.9 Knowing forgiveness is the knowledge of salvation. A person’s sins must be paid for so that he can be released from bondage or imprisonment to those sins. Anyone who is caught up in this world, entangled in its snares, unable to free himself from its hold, needs to hear how to be free from sin’s death grip in a real and lasting way. Here’s how:
In God’s tender mercy He sent his Son, our Master, 10 into the world because He loved all of its people with all His heart. He lived in absolute obedience to His Father and became a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, so that the price for an individual’s sins could be sent away from him and put upon Messiah. He bore the awesome penalty of death, the ransom price for all the sins of man, canceling all judgment and condemnation deserved by that person. Apart from the shedding of the blood of Yahshua, the Messiah, there is no remission — no forgiveness of sins.
Therefore, anyone who believes in Yahshua, the Messiah, can be released from the snares and entanglement of his sins and escape the dreaded penalty of death. In exchange for his sinful life, he receives the gift of eternal life. Men who do not love the darkness can come to the light that our Master Yahshua is. He is now seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven, but He is raising up a people who are becoming that same light — His Body, His Bride, His people who will be the light to the nations.
The Dawn is coming. Soon those who sit in darkness will see the light coming from a gathered people who will communicate and reveal the tender mercies of God. Their message will then give light and revelation to many who sit at their desks in universities and in their pews at church and in the porno shops and peep shows and in their stadiums and at their festivals and in their Congress and Senate seats and in all the work places of the world. They will be elevated from a life of striving for meaning to a life where they can lift their souls up to the rule of love. This life of love is the witness of the kingdom of our Sovereign King Yahshua.
His people will no longer sit in the seat of the scornful11 but will instead delight themselves in Him. For those who take delight in Him, “He will cause each one to ride on the heights of the earth. He will feed them with the heritage of Jacob, their father [the father of the Twelve Tribes], for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”12