In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:1-2)John the Baptist was the last Old Testament prophet, but he was also the greatest of them all. He was given a privilege that no other prophet had received: he got to both meet and baptize the Messiah!
John the Baptist prepared the Messiah's way. He preached a simple message: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The people of Israel were daily oppressed by their Roman rulers. They longed for freedom, for the kingdom of heaven to be established by the prophesied Messiah. Only then would their enemies by destroyed.
Israel was focused on the outward. The coming of the kingdom meant that violence and judgment would be poured out on their enemies. Swords would be raised and slaughter would come.
That is the mindset John the Baptist combated in his preaching. He preached to a nation so focused on the outward that they forgot the inward. They forgot to examine their own hearts.
The people of Israel needed to yearn for freedom from sin as much as (if not more than) they longed for freedom from Rome. Thus John preached a message of repentance.
Oh that all believers would take John's message to heart! It's easy to condemn the world around you. It's easy to blame the world for the temptations you face. But as a Christian, remember that you always must look inward first. You must examine your own heart. Let us never, as Christians, become so focused on combating the evil around us that we forget to put to death the sin that remains in our own flesh!