John worked seven years for Jesus, and had already paved the way when Jesus arrived. Before this, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven preached by John was heard throughout the land, so that it spread across Judea, and everyone called him a prophet. At the time, King Herod wished to kill John, yet he did not dare, for the people held John in high regard, and Herod feared that if he killed John they would revolt against him. The work done by John took root among the common people, and he made believers of the Jews. For seven years he paved the way for Jesus, right up until the time that Jesus began to perform His ministry. And so, John was the greatest of all the prophets. Jesus only began His official work after the imprisonment of John. Before John, there had never been a prophet that paved the way for God, because prior to Jesus, God had never before become flesh. And so, of all the prophets up until John, he was the only one to open the way for God incarnate, and in this way John became the greatest prophet of the Old and New Testaments. John began to spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven seven years before the baptism of Jesus. To the people, the work he did seemed above the subsequent work of Jesus, yet he was, nevertheless, still only a prophet. He worked and spoke not within the temple, but in the towns and villages outside of it. This he did, of course, among the Jewish nation, particularly those who were impoverished. Rarely did John come into contact with people from the upper echelons of society, only spreading the gospel among the ordinary people of Judea in order to prepare the right people for the Lord Jesus, and prepare the suitable place for Him to work in. With a prophet such as John to pave the way, the Lord Jesus was able to embark upon His way of cross as soon as He arrived. When God became flesh to do His work, He did not have to do the work of choosing people, and did not need to personally seek people or the place in which to work. He did not do such work when He came; the right person had already prepared for Him before He arrived. John had already completed this work before Jesus began His work, for when God incarnate arrived to do His work, He got straight to work on those who had long been waiting for Him. Jesus had not come to do the work of man, or the work of rectification that fell to man. He had come only to perform the ministry that was His to perform, and all else bore no relation to Him. When John came, he did nothing but bring out from the temple and among the Jews a group of those who accepted the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, in order that they might become the objects of the work of the Lord Jesus. John worked for seven years, which is to say he spread the gospel for seven years. During his work, John did not perform many miracles, for his work was to pave the way, it was the work of preparation. All other work, and the work Jesus was going to do, was unrelated to him; he only asked man to confess his sins and repent, and baptized people, so that they could be saved. Though he did new work, and opened a path that man had never walked upon before, still he only paved the way for Jesus. He was merely a prophet that did the work of preparation, and was incapable of doing the work of Jesus. Though Jesus was not the first to speak of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and though He continued along the path that John had embarked upon, still there was no one else who could do His work, and it was above the work of John. Jesus could not prepare His own way; His work was carried out directly on behalf of God. And so, no matter how many years John worked, he was still a prophet, and still one who paved the way. The three years of work done by Jesus surpassed the seven years of work by John, for the substance of His work was not the same. When Jesus began to perform His ministry, which is also when the work of John came to an end, John had prepared the people and place adequate for use by the Lord Jesus, and they were sufficient for the Lord Jesus to begin three years of work. And so, as soon as the work of John was finished, the Lord Jesus officially began His own work, and the words spoken by John were cast aside. That is because the work done by John was only for the sake of the transition, and his words were not the words of life that would lead man to new growth; ultimately, his words were only of temporary use.
The work that Jesus did was not supernatural and there was a process to it; it all progressed according to the normal laws of things. By the last six months of His life, Jesus knew with certainty that He had come to do this work, and knew that He had come to be nailed to the cross. Before He was crucified, Jesus continually prayed to God the Father, just as He prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane. After He was baptized, Jesus performed His ministry for three and a half years. His official work lasted two and a half years, during the first year of which He was accused by Satan, and disturbed by man, and subjected to the temptation of man. He overcame many temptations at the same time as carrying out His work. In the last six months, when Jesus was soon to be crucified, from the mouth of Peter came the words that He was the Son of the living God, that He was Christ. Only then did His identity and work become known to all, only then were they revealed to the public. After that, Jesus told His disciples that He was to be crucified for the sake of man, and that three days later He would rise again; that He had come to carry out the work of redemption, and He was the Savior. Only in the last six months did He reveal His identity and the work that He intended to do. This was also the time of God, and the work should be carried out thus. At the time, part of Jesus’ work was in accordance with the Old Testament, as well as with the laws of Moses and the words of Jehovah during the Age of Law. All these Jesus used to do part of His work. He preached to the people and taught them in the synagogues, and He employed the predictions of the prophets in the Old Testament to rebuke the Pharisees that were in enmity of Him, and used the words in the Scriptures to reveal their disobedience and thus condemn them. For they despised what Jesus had done, particularly because much of Jesus’ work was not according to the laws in the Scriptures, and, furthermore, because what He taught was higher than their own words, and even higher than that which had been foretold by the prophets in the Scriptures. The work of Jesus was only for the sake of man’s redemption and the crucifixion. Thus, there was no need for Him to say more words in order to conquer any man. Much of what He taught man was drawn from the words of the Scriptures, and even if His work did not exceed the Scriptures, still He was able to accomplish the work of the crucifixion. His was not the work of the word, nor for the sake of conquering mankind, but in order to redeem mankind. He only acted as the sin offering for mankind, and did not act as the source of the word for mankind. He did not do the work of the Gentiles, which was the work of conquering man, but did the work of the crucifixion, work that was done among those who believed there was a God. Even though His work was carried out upon the foundation of the Scriptures, and He used that foretold by the old prophets to condemn the Pharisees, this was sufficient to complete the work of the crucifixion. If the work of today were still carried out upon the foundation of the predictions of the old prophets in the Scriptures, then it would be impossible to conquer you, for the Old Testament contains no record of the disobedience and sins of you Chinese people, there is no history of your sins. And so, if this work still lingered in the Bible, you would never yield. The Bible records but a limited history of the Israelites, one which is incapable of establishing whether you are evil or good, or of judging you. Imagine that I were to judge you according to the history of the Israelites. Would you still follow Me as you do today? Do you know how difficult you are? If no words were spoken during this stage, then it would be impossible to complete the work of conquest. Because I have not come to be nailed to the cross, I must speak words that are separate from the Bible, in order that you may be conquered. The work done by Jesus was merely a stage higher than the Old Testament; it was used to begin an age, and to lead that age. Why did He say, “I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill”? Yet in His work there was much which differed from the laws and commandments followed by the Israelites of the Old Testament, for He did not come to obey the law, but to fulfill it. The process of fulfilling it included many actual things: His work was more practical and real, and, furthermore, it was alive, and not the blind adherence to doctrine. Did the Israelites not keep the Sabbath? When Jesus came He did not observe the Sabbath, for He said that the Son of man was the Lord of the Sabbath, and when the Lord of the Sabbath arrived, He would do as He wished. He had come to fulfill the laws of the Old Testament and to change the laws. All that is done today is based upon the present, yet it still rests upon the foundation of the work of Jehovah in the Age of Law, and does not transgress this scope. To watch your tongue, and not commit adultery, for example—are these not the laws of the Old Testament? Today, what is required of you is not only limited to the Ten Commandments, but are commandments and laws that are higher than those of before, yet this does not mean that what came before has been abolished, for each stage of God’s work is carried out upon the foundation of the stage that came before. That which Jehovah introduced to Israel, such as giving sacrifice, honoring your father and mother, not worshiping idols, not assaulting others, not cursing others, not committing adultery, not smoking, not drinking, not eating the dead, not drinking blood … is it not the foundation for your behavior even today? It is upon the foundation of the past that the work has been carried out up until today. Though the laws of the past are no longer mentioned, and new requirements have been made of you, these laws have not been abolished, and instead, they have been uplifted. To say that they have been abolished means that the previous age is outdated, yet there are some commandments that you must always honor. The commandments of the past have already been put into practice, have already become the being of man, and there is no need to reiterate commandments to not smoke, not drink, and so on. Upon this foundation, new commandments are laid down according to your needs today, according to your stature, and according to the work of today. Decreeing commandments for the new age does not mean abolishing the commandments of the old age, but lifting them higher upon this foundation, to make the actions of man more complete, and more in line with reality. If, today, you were only required to follow the commandments and abide by the laws of the Old Testament, in the same way as the Israelites, and if, even, you were required to memorize the laws laid down by Jehovah, there would be no possibility that you could change. If you were only to abide by those few limited commandments or memorize innumerable laws, your old nature would remain deeply embedded, and there would be no way to uproot it. Thus you would become increasingly depraved, and not one of you would become obedient. Which is to say that a few simple commandments or countless laws are incapable of helping you know the deeds of Jehovah. You are not the same as the Israelites: by following the laws and memorizing the commandments they were able to witness the deeds of Jehovah, and give their unswerving devotion to Him, but you are unable to achieve this, and a few commandments of the Old Testament age are not only incapable of making you give over your heart, or of protecting you, but will instead make you lax, and will lower you to Hades. Because My work is the work of conquest, and is aimed at your disobedience and old nature, the kind words of Jehovah and Jesus fall far short of the severe words of judgment today. Without such severe words, it would be impossible to conquer you “experts,” who have been disobedient for thousands of years. The laws of the Old Testament lost their power on you long ago, and the judgment of today is far more formidable than the old laws. Most suitable for you is judgment, and not the trifling restrictions of laws, for you are not the mankind of the very beginning, but a mankind that has been corrupt for thousands of years. What you must achieve now is according to the real state of man today, according to the quality and actual stature of present-day man, and it is not required that you follow doctrine. This is so that changes may be achieved in your old disposition, and in order that you may cast aside your conceptions. Do you think the commandments are doctrine? They are, it can be said, ordinary requirements of man. They are not doctrine that you must follow. Take prohibiting smoking, for example—is that doctrine? It is not doctrine! It is required by normal humanity; it is not doctrine, but a rule for the whole of mankind. Today, the dozen or so commandments that have been set forth are also not doctrine, but what is required to achieve normal humanity. People did not possess or know of such things in the past, and so they are required to achieve them today, which do not count as doctrine. Laws are not the same as doctrine. The doctrine that I speak of refers to ceremonies, forms or the deviant and erroneous practices of man; it is rules and regulations that are of no help to man, no benefit to him, and it is a course of action that holds no significance. This is the epitome of doctrine, and such doctrine must be discarded, for it offers no benefit to man. It is that which is of benefit to man that must be put into practice.
From The Word Appears in the Flesh