The Bible calls him “a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20). Jesus said of him, “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining . . .” (John 5:35).
The task of John the Baptist was preparing Israel for the coming Messiah. John’s message consisted of two main themes: 1) repentance, and 2) the Coming One.
Concerning repentance, he preached the necessity of showing proof of a true change of heart by not mistreating others and by sharing with those in need (Luke 3:7-14).
He was bold enough to rebuke King Herod for his sins—and consequently was imprisoned and beheaded (Matthew 14:3-12).
Concerning Christ, John said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! . . . . this is the Son of God” (John 1:29, 34).
William Barclay says of John’s preaching, “. . . whatever the message of John was it was not a gospel. It was not good news . . .” (The Gospel of Luke, Westminster Press, p. 28).
I beg to differ. The New Testament specifically says John preached the gospel (Luke 3:18). The word gospel means good news.
It’s true, John preached fire and damnation (Luke 3:7, 9). He had to announce the bad news before the good news could be fully appreciated. The doctor must tell us we have cancer before we would consent to surgery or other treatment.
The good news John preached was that in spite of God’s wrath against sin, He has sent us a Savior who will rescue us from a fate far worse than death.
As William Hendriksen has written, “The Baptist’s warning, dire and dreadful though it may seem, is filled with mercy, for its purpose is that men may be converted” (New Testament Commentary: Luke, Baker Book House, p. 212).
That was the message God sent John to preach, and he faithfully preached it.
And it really was good news.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/
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