The Purpose of Baptism

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THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM
A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn
March 25, 2012
Dawson Creek, BC

Readings: Isaiah 1:9-20; Matthew 3:1-17; True Christian Religion 685

We just heard the story of John the Baptist, who called all of Judah to himself to be baptized in the Jordan River. In that story, we heard John say that one would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He later told his followers that the one he had spoken about was the Lord, Jesus. And when Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to His disciples and told them to go forth and baptize all nations into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, baptism has been a key part of Christianity.

In the New Church, we tend not to focus much on ritual.  We put a lot of emphasis on life – the way we live by our religion.  And that’s as it should be – internal worship involves loving the Lord and loving our neighbour.  But there is a value and strength in the external rituals of worship, because they represent those internal things, and actually serve to strengthen those internal things.  And the two most important rituals – the two sacraments in the New Church – are baptism and the Holy Supper.

Without a knowledge of correspondences, it’s hard to understand how there could be a value in the external ritual of baptism.  But the Writings for the New Church describe a deeper meaning within this ritual that show how something as seemingly mundane as dipping someone under water can have profound spiritual influences.  And the Writings for the New Church reveal a purpose in baptism that is unknown to many in the world.

True Christian Religion describes the three primary uses of baptism: introduction into the church, getting to know the Lord, and being regenerated.  Baptism alone does not accomplish these things, but it serves as an external sign of them, and helps bring them about. These three all involve each other and are tied together – each one is an integral part of what it means to be baptized.

The first use of baptism is that it is an introduction into the church – a sign and a symbol that a person is a Christian.  This morning we read the story of John the Baptist baptizing people in the River Jordan.  The Jordan River marked the boundary and the entrance to the land of Canaan.  The reason that John baptized there was that it represented an entrance into the church.

What does it mean to be introduced to the church?  It means that a person is first beginning to learn the truths of the Lord’s words.  These are the simple, basic teachings – that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, that evils are to be shunned as sins against Him, that His Word is truth.  When a person first begins to learn these truths – and to live by them – it is as if he is being washed in the Jordan River.

Now again, this may seem like it wouldn’t have much power.  Doesn’t everyone know that it’s wrong to lie, to steal, to commit adultery, and so on?  They’re such simple teachings, it seems, that a person might scoff at the idea that they have to be bathed by these things. But until we actually try to shun evils because they are sins, we don’t know how strong or weak a hold they have on us. We might think, “OK, yes, I tell lies, but it’s not that big a deal – I don’t think there would be some profound spiritual change in me if I stopped.” But it’s not until we do try to stop because it is a sin against God that we realize how deeply that deceit may or may not be ingrained in us. When we try to stop, and pray for the Lord’s help, we do notice a change.

Being introduced into the church does not just mean introduction into the truth, though.  It also means introduction to the people of the church, and introduction among angelic spirits who make up the church.  That’s why we can perform infant baptisms – because even though the baby is not yet able to learn the truth of the church, there is a promise that they will, and there is also a sign made that they will be raised as Christians.  And it actually changes the spirits who are around that child.

Now, again, this might seem abstract and like it has nothing to do with real life – but that’s only because we don’t realize how huge an influence the spirits around us have.  Every single thought we have flows into us from the spirits around us, as hard as that is to believe.  And so changing our spirits changes the way we are even able to think.  Now, a person’s decisions throughout their lives also affect what spirits are around, and so baptism or non-baptism doesn’t determine a person’s spiritual home, the spirits he will live with forever.  But it does make a difference, because the washing of baptism and the sign of the cross is a physical manifestation and sign that actually brings the person among Christian spirits and angels.

So that first use of baptism is being introduced into the truth of the church, and also coming into the company of Christian people, spirits and angels. But in itself, being brought among Christians is meaningless – being influenced by Christians is not actually what makes a person Christian.  True Christianity – the kind of Christianity described in the book The True Christian Religion – means getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this is the second purpose of baptism – that a person may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and to follow Him.

There would be no point in introducing someone into the church without introducing them to the source of all the good and truth in the church.  And we can’t really get to know who He is except by following His commandments. That source is the Lord.  True Christian Religion asks, What would be the use of being called a Christian without this second use, the acknowledgment of Christ, and especially of following His commandments?  We read, “Is it not really like a subject who attaches himself to a king, and yet repudiates the king’s laws or those of the country, and yields allegiance to a foreign king and serves him?” (True Christian Religion 681).  To be called a Christian and yet not to follow the Lord would be an empty thing, and worthless.

This second purpose of baptism – coming to know the Lord – comes from the first – being introduced to the church.  A person learns to follow the Lord by being brought up, supported, and encouraged by Christians.  And here’s another area where baptism becomes relevant for our daily lives.  When we attend a child’s baptism, we attend a ceremony that introduces the child to the church – and we here help make up that church.  In that ceremony, the parents specifically promise to raise the child to follow the Lord – but we all share that responsibility, to support everyone who comes to the church and who is baptized in their path of following the Lord.  It is our responsibility to encourage each other to do what is right and good, and to look to the Lord together.

The second use of baptism is that we may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow Him.  It might seem like this purpose would be the final use and goal of baptism.  But from the Lord’s perspective, the one remaining use is actually the most important.  That final use of baptism is that a person be regenerated.

The Lord spoke of the importance of a person being born again.  He said, “Unless someone be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   When we talk about regeneration, we are talking about re-birth.  But we use the word regeneration because it is not referring to one moment in time, as “birth” implies, but a process and progression over time.  The Lord’s purpose in baptism – and even the reason that He wants us to know Him and follow Him – is so that he can create us anew, and give us the blessedness of heaven.

Think about that.  The Lord did not create humanity was for the sake of His own glory, so that He could be worshipped.  The Lord created the world for the sake of blessing the world, not being blessed Himself

And so this final use of baptism – that a person be regenerated – follows from the prior two uses, and it could be said to be its primary end in view.  And it is the use that is most clearly seen in the representation of baptism itself as a washing.  Because the way that a person is regenerated is by spiritual washing, that is, by removing the evil lusts and desires that cling to him.

The way a person does this is by repentance.  And repentance is the common thread that runs through all the different uses of baptism.  A person is truly introduced into Christianity by repenting; he learns to acknowledge the Lord and follow Him by repenting; and he is regenerated by means of repentance.

This is not always an easy process. And in some ways, baptism is presented as a painful thing. It is used as an image of death. Speaking of His crucifixion, Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” The image of baptism is one of washing, but it is also an image of being buried – the apostle Paul would later compare Jesus burial and resurrection to the experience of being submerged under the water in baptism and then rising up out of it. In our reading this morning, John the Baptist warned the Sadducees and Pharisees, the religious leaders at the time, that the Lord’s baptism would be like a consuming fire. And when we repent, there are parts of ourselves – the merely natural parts – where we feel like we are dying. Baptism is a symbol of putting to death the parts of us that rebel against the Lord’s love, so that we can be purified. The prophet Malachi compared it to a refiner’s fire: “But who may sustain the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He is seen? For He is as a refiner’s fire, and as washer’s soap.” That refiner’s fire burned away all the impurities in a precious metal. For us to be purified, we have to endure the pain of fighting against the evil cravings that give us pleasure.

But that fire that burns away impurities is also a warming fire of love. The purpose of baptism and of washing is not simply so that evil can be taken away, but so that something new from the Lord can come in and take its place. It is so that the Holy Spirit can flow into a person, giving them a new spirit.  It is so that the fire of the Lord’s love can flow into a person, giving them a new heart. There is a progression there. That progression is described in John the Baptist’s words: “I indeed baptize you with water, but one comes after me Who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.”

That first kind of baptism is a baptism of water.  The Lord did not only baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire; He also baptized in the waters of the Jordan river, just as John had. The water of Jordan is a picture of the simple, straightforward truths in the letter of the Word.  We start out by following them, by repenting on the very basic, literal level – stopping our stealing, stopping lying, shunning adultery.

As we progress, though, the Lord gives us the opportunity to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit represents the Lord’s Divine Truth.  This is contained within the teachings of the Lord’s Word, but cannot really be expressed in words.  It’s a sight we have of the truth.  We learn to see things in ourselves that are sins against the Lord, even if we can’t describe exactly what they are – attitudes or intentions that on a deeper level steal from the Lord.  There’s the love of self, and the raising up of ourselves above others; and when we realize this, and shun these deeper evils because we know they are sins, we are being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Being baptized by the Holy Spirit means being regenerated by truth.  We come to love the truth, and to love treating our neighbours well because we know it is right.  There is love in the Holy Spirit – but it’s primarily a love for acting by the truth, not simply a love for goodness itself.  That is the next level, the celestial level; and to be regenerated by this love is what it means to be baptized by fire.

A person first becomes spiritual before becoming celestial.  But a person can become celestial.  The way this happens is that gradually the Lord transforms their love for acting by what is true into a genuine love for the Love that comes from Him.  It is love for love’s sake, and when a person reaches this state, they act primarily from love to the Lord.  This washes a person on an even deeper level than that love for truth does.  Those who reach this level are said to be baptized with fire. These are the people who come into a genuine love for the Lord and love for their neighbour, who love to love others.

The external act of baptism does not accomplish any of these things. But when a person has these internal elements – a desire to learn truth, to fight against evil with it, to come to know the Lord and be regenerated – then the external ritual actually makes these things happen more fully and more completely. Through the internal washing of repentance and regeneration, a person is made clean, and made ready for heaven, which is the Lord’s greatest desire. By the first use of baptism, a person is introduced among Christians; by the second use, he comes to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as God, and follow Him; and by the third use, He is regenerated and born again, in accordance with the Lord’s words in the gospel of John: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,13)  Amen.

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Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

It is said in John, that the Lord “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and in Luke, that He baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” In the internal sense, to baptize signifies to regenerate; to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, is to regenerate by the good of love,—fire, is the good of love.. (AC n. 9229)

THE HOLY SUPPER

General Doctrine

In order that every one who repents should look to the Lord alone, the Holy Supper was instituted by Him, which to those who repent confirms the remission of sins. It confirms; because in that supper or communion every one is kept looking to the Lord only. (DP n. 122)

Baptism is introduction into the church; but the Holy Supper is an introduction into heaven. These two Sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper, are as two gates to eternal life. By baptism, which is the first gate, every Christian man is intromitted and introduced into those things which the church teaches from the Word concerning another life; all which are means whereby a man may be prepared for and led to heaven. The second gate is the Holy Supper; through this every man who has suffered himself to be prepared and led by the Lord, is intromitted and introduced into heaven. (TCR n. 721)

The Holy Supper was instituted by the Lord that by means of it there may be a conjunction of the church with heaven, and so with the Lord; it is therefore the most holy thing of worship.

But how conjunction is effected by it, is not apprehended by those who do not know anything of the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; for they do not think beyond the external sense, which is the sense of the letter. From the internal or spiritual sense of the Word it is known what is signified by the body, and blood, and what by the bread and wine, also what is signified by eating.

In that sense, the body or flesh of the Lord is the good of love, as is the bread likewise; and the blood of the Lord is the good of faith, as also is the wine; and eating is appropriation, and conjunction. The angels who are attendant on man when he receives the Sacrament of the Supper understand these things no otherwise; for they perceive all things spiritually. Hence it is that with man the holiness of love and the holiness of faith then flow in from the Lord. From this is conjunction.

From these considerations it is evident that when a man takes the bread, which is the body, he is conjoined to the Lord by means of the good of love to Him from Him; and when he takes the wine, which is the blood, he is conjoined to the Lord by means of the good of faith in Him from Him. But it should be known that conjunction with the Lord by means of the Sacrament of the Supper is effected only with those who are in the good of love and faith in the Lord from the Lord. With these there is conjunction by means of the Holy Supper; with others there is presence, but not conjunction.

Moreover, the Holy Supper includes and comprehends all the Divine worship instituted in the Israelitish church; for the burnt-offerings and sacrifices, in which the worship of that church principally consisted, were called in one word bread; hence also the Holy Supper is its complement. (HD n. 210-214)

They come to the Holy Supper worthily who are in faith in the Lord, and in charity towards the neighbour, thus who are regenerate. (TCR n. 722)

[Every one is regenerated by abstaining from the evils of sin. TCR n. 510. The state of regeneration begins when a man determines to shun evil and do good. ibid. n. 587.]

To those who come to it worthily the Holy Supper is as a signing and sealing that they are children of God; because the Lord is then present, and introduces those who are born of Him, that is who are regenerate, into heaven. The Holy Supper effects this because the Lord is then present even as to His Human; for it was shown above that in the Holy Supper the Lord is wholly present, and also the whole of His redemption; for He says of the bread “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood.” Consequently He then admits them into His body; and the church and heaven constitute His body. The Lord is indeed present whenever man is being regenerated, and by His Divine operation prepares him for heaven; but that He may actually enter, a man must actually present himself to the Lord. And because the Lord actually presents Himself to man, a man must actually receive Him,—and not as He hung upon the cross, but as He is, in His glorified Human in which He is present. The body of this is Divine Good, and the blood is Divine Truth. These are given to man, and by them man is regenerated, and is in the Lord and the Lord in him; for, as was shown above, the eating which takes place in the Holy Supper is spiritual eating. From all this, rightly apprehended, it is plain that the Holy Supper is as a signing and sealing that they who worthily approach it are children of God. (ibid. n. 728)

Conjunction with the Lord by means of the Holy Supper may be illustrated by the conjunction of the families descended from one father. From him descend brethren, and relations in succession by marriage and by blood; and they all derive something from the first stock. They do not, however, thus derive flesh and blood; but from flesh and blood they thus derive the soul and hence inclination to similar things, whereby they are conjoined. The very conjunction indeed commonly appears in their faces, and also in their manners; and they are therefore called one flesh (Gen. xxix. 14; xxxvii. 27; 2 Sam. v. 1; xix. 12, 13; et al). It is similar in respect to conjunction with the Lord, who is the Father of all the faithful and blessed. Conjunction with Him is effected by love and faith, on account of which two they are called one flesh. Hence it is that He said:—”He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him” (John vi. 56). Who does not see that the bread and wine do not effect this, but the good of love which is meant by bread, and the truth of faith which is meant by wine, which are the Lord’s own, and proceed and are communicated from Him alone? In truth all conjunction is effected by love; and love is not love without confidence. Those who believe that the bread is flesh and the wine blood, and are not able farther to elevate their thought, may remain in this belief; but ought not to think otherwise than that there is a something most holy [in the Sacrament], that is conjunctive with the Lord, which is attributed and appropriated to man as his although it continually remains the Lord’s. (ibid. n. 727)

The Second Use of Baptism

The Second Use of Baptism

The second use of Baptism is, that the Christian may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and follow Him. This second use of Baptism, which is that one may know the Lord the Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ, inseparably follows the first, which is introduction into the Christian church, and insertion among Christians in the spiritual world. And what is this first use without the second but a mere name? … To bear the name of a Christian, of one belonging to Christ, and not acknowledge Him, and follow Him, that is, live according to His commandments, is as empty as a shadow, as a smoke, and useless as a blackened picture. For the Lord says,—”Why call ye me Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke vi. 46); “Many will say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord…. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you” (Matt. vii. 22, 23). (TCR n. 681)

The Third Use of Baptism

The third use of Baptism, which is its final use, is that the man shall be regenerated. This is the very use for the sake of which Baptism was instituted, and is thus its final use; because a true Christian knows and acknowledges the Lord the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who as He is the Redeemer is also the Regenerator; and because a Christian possesses the Word, in which the means of regeneration stand plainly described,—and the means therein are faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbour. This is the same as what is said of the Lord, that,—”He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Holy Spirit means the Divine truth of faith; and fire, the Divine good of love or charity, both proceeding from the Lord; and by these two all regeneration is effected by the Lord. (TCR n. 684)

From what has been said before, and now, it may be seen that the three uses of Baptism cohere as one,—after the same manner as the first cause, the mediate, which is the efficient cause, and the ultimate cause, which is the effect and the end itself for the sake of which the former exist. For the first use is that one may be named a Christian; the second, following from this, is that he may know and acknowledge the Lord the Redeemer, Regenerator, and Saviour; and the third is, that he may be regenerated by Him; and when this is done he is redeemed and saved. Since these three uses follow in order, and unite in the last, and hence in the conception of the angels cohere as one, therefore when Baptism is performed, read of in the Word, or mentioned, the angels who are present do not understand Baptism, but regeneration. Wherefore, by these words of the Lord, “Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but whosoever believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark xvi. 16), it is understood by the angels in heaven, that he who acknowledges the Lord and is regenerated is saved. (ibid. n. 685)

As regards the Baptism of John, it represented the cleansing of the external man; but the Baptism which is at this day among Christians represents the cleansing of the internal man, which is regeneration. We therefore read that John baptized with water, but that the Lord baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire; and for this reason the Baptism of John is called the Baptism of repentance…. The Jews that were baptized were merely external men; and the external man cannot become internal without faith in Christ. It may be seen in the Acts of the Apostles (ch. xix. 3-6) that those who were baptized with the Baptism of John became internal men when they received faith in Christ, and were then baptized in the name of Jesus. (ibid. n. 690)

BAPTISM

BAPTISM

General Doctrine

Baptism was instituted for a sign that a man is of the church, and for a memorial that he must be regenerated; for the washing of Baptism is no other than spiritual washing, or regeneration.

All regeneration is effected by the Lord, by means of the truths of faith and a life according to them. Baptism therefore testifies that a man is of the church, and that he can be regenerated. For in the church the Lord is acknowledged, who alone regenerates; and there the Word is, wherein are the truths of faith by which regeneration is effected.

The Lord thus teaches in John:—”Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” In the spiritual sense water is the truth of faith from the Word; the spirit is life according to it; and to be born of them is to be regenerated by them.

Since every one who is regenerated also endures temptations, which are spiritual combats against evils and falsities, therefore these also are signified by the waters of baptism.

Because baptism is for a sign and a memorial of these things, a man may be baptized as an infant; and if not then, he may be as an adult.

Those who are baptized should therefore know that the Baptism itself confers neither faith nor salvation; but testifies that they may receive faith, and that they may be saved if they are regenerated.

From this it is evident what is meant by the Lord’s words in Mark:—”He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (ch. xvi. 16). He that believeth is he who acknowledges the Lord and receives truths from Him through the Word; he that is baptized is he who is regenerated by means of them by the Lord. (HD n. 202-208)

Baptism Commanded

That baptism was commanded is very manifest from the baptism of John, in the Jordan, to which there went out all Judea and Jerusalem (Matt. 5, 6; Mark i. 4, 5); and from the fact that the Lord our Saviour Himself was baptized by John (Matt. iii. 13-17). -He moreover commanded the disciples that they should baptize all nations (Matt. xviii 19). (TCR n. 668)

The reason why the Lord Himself was baptized by John was, not only that He might institute baptism for the future, and lead the way by His example, but also because He glorified His Humanity and made this Divine, as He regenerates man and makes him spiritual (ibid. n. 684)

The First Use of Baptism

The first use of Baptism is introduction into the Christian church, and then, at the same time, insertion among Christians in the spiritual world…. Baptism was instituted in the place of circumcision; and as circumcision was a sign that the circumcised were of the Jewish church, so Baptism is a sign that the baptized are of the Christian church. But the sign effects nothing more than that they may be known; as the swaddling-clothes of different colour placed upon the infants of two mothers, that they may be distinguished, and not changed…. Not only infants are baptized, but also all foreign proselytes, young and old, who are converted to the Christian religion, and this before they have been instructed, merely upon a confession that they desire to embrace Christianity. This too did the Apostles, according to the Lord’s command that they should “make disciples of all nations, and baptize them” (Matt. xviii. 19)…

But this is done on earth. In the heavens, on the other hand, the infants are introduced by Baptism into the Christian heaven; and angels are assigned them there by the Lord, who take care of them. As soon therefore as infants are baptized, angels are appointed over them, by whom they are kept in a state to receive faith in the Lord. But as they grow up, and come to act of their own right and of their own reason, the guardian-angels leave them, and they draw to themselves such spirits as make one with their life and faith; from which it is plain that Baptism is also insertion among Christians in the spiritual world. (TCR n. 677)

The reason why not only infants but in fact all are inserted by baptism among Christians in the spiritual world, is, that in that world peoples and nations are distinct, according to their religions. Christians are in the centre; Mohammedans around them; after them idolaters of various kinds; and at the sides the Jews.[The reader should not think of this as of an arrangement in space, but rather according to state. A little reflection will show an arrangement to some extent similar, although less perfect, in this world. Christians here are in the centre,— the centre of light and civilization; others are grouped around them, and, in a common and important aspect, are considered nearer or more remote from Christendom according as they have more or less of the light and life which characterize it.]

Moreover, all of the same religion in heaven are arranged in societies, according to the affections of love to God and towards the neighbour; and in hell, in congregations, according to the affections opposed to these two loves, thus according to the lusts of evil. In the spiritual world,—by which we mean both heaven and hell,—all things are most distinctly organized, in the whole and in every part, or in general and in every particular. Upon the distinctive organization there the preservation of the whole universe depends; and there could not be this distinctiveness unless every one after he is born were known by some sign, [showing] to what religious body he belongs. For without the Christian sign, which is Baptism, some Mahometan spirit or one of the idolaters might attach himself to Christian infants newly born, and also to children, and breathe into them an inclination for his religion, and so distract their minds and alienate them from Christianity; which would be to distort and destroy spiritual order. (TCR 678)

The Mahometans, as all the Gentiles, who acknowledge one God, and love justice, and do good from a religious motive, have their heaven; but outside of the Christian heaven. (ibid. n. 832)

Infants and children born without the Christian church, [who depart this life in infancy or childhood] after reception of faith in the Lord, are designated for the heaven of their religion by other means than baptism; but they are not intermingled with those who are in the Christian heaven. (ibid. n. 729)

Every man as to his spirit, although he does not know it, is in society with spirits while he lives in the body. Through them a good man is in an angelic society, and an evil man in an infernal society. (HH n. 438)

This first use of baptism is, that it is a sign in the spiritual world, that the baptized is a Christian,—where every one is inserted in the societies and congregations there, according to the quality of the Christianity within him or without him. (TCR n. 680) [What the author means by the Christianity without a man may be gathered from the following in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture The church is in man; the church which is without him is the church among the many who have the church in them.” (SS n. 78)]

John’s Baptism, an Illustration of the Effect of the Sign of Baptism in the Spiritual World, and thence upon the Baptized on Earth

Baptism is holy, and a sacrament, because it is a sign and a memorial that the man can be regenerated by the Lord, by means of truths from the Word,—a sign for heaven, and a memorial for man and that a man is introduced by it into the church,—as the children of Israel by passing over the Jordan were introduced into the land of Canaan, and as the inhabitants of Jerusalem were prepared by the Baptism of John for the reception of the Lord. For without that sign in heaven before the angels, the Jews could not have subsisted and lived at the coming of Jehovah, that is of the Lord, in the flesh. (AR n. 776)

John was the prophet who was sent to prepare the way of Jehovah God, who was to descend into the world and accomplish the work of redemption. He prepared that way by baptism, and then by announcing the coming of the Lord; and without that preparation all there would have been smitten with a curse, and would have perished. (TCR n. 688)

The reason why a way was prepared by John’s Baptism was, that by that baptism they were introduced into the future church of the Lord, and in heaven were inserted among those who expected and desired the Messiah, and so were guarded by angels, that devils might not break forth from hell and destroy them….

If the way had not been prepared for the descent of Jehovah into the world by means of Baptism, the effect of which in heaven was that the hells were closed, and the Jews were guarded from total destruction [they would have perished]. (ibid. n. 689)

After quotation and exposition of some illustrative and confirmatory passages from the Word, the author adds:

These few examples illustrate with what a curse and destruction the Jews would have been smitten, if they had not been prepared by the Baptism of John to receive the Messiah, who was Jehovah God in the human form, and if He had not assumed the Human and so revealed Himself. And they were prepared by this, that in heaven they were enrolled and numbered among those who in heart expected and desired the Messiah in consequence of which angels were then sent, and became their guardians. (ibid. n. 691)