The Greek term prodromos (one who runs ahead) occurs only once in the New Testament (Hebrews 6:20) where it serves as a designation for Christ. In secular Greek the term was frequent as a military term for advanced scouts or cavalry that prepared for a full assault. This sense is seen in the Septuagint or earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament once (Wisdom of Solomon 12:8) where wasps were the forerunners of the armies of Israel. (Compare
Deuteronomy 7:20; but also
Joshua 24:12 where the hornets completed driving out the Amorite kings so that no Israelite assault was necessary.) Elsewhere in the Septuagint prodromos is used metaphorically for the first ripe fruit (Numbers 13:20;
Isaiah 28:4). This usage suggests that the Christian hope of entering God's presence is guaranteed by the forerunner's already reaching this goal. (Compare the idea of Christ as first fruits of the dead,
1 Corinthians 15:20,1 Corinthians 15:23.) A similar idea is expressed in the image of Christ as the pioneer of salvation (Hebrews 2:10), the first of many children that God brings to glory through suffering. Significantly, Christ is forerunner for use. Having run ahead on the road of suffering, Christ became the source of salvation which makes our following possible (Hebrews 5:8-10).
In English, forerunner indicates one who precedes and indicates the approach of another. In this sense John the Baptist is termed the forerunner of Jesus, though the New Testament does not use this term of John. The Old Testament used the common image of advance agents sent ahead of a king to make arrangements for his travel to picture the mission of a prophetic messenger preparing the way for God's coming (Isaiah 40:3;
Malachi 3:1). The application of these texts to John by the New Testament writers (Matthew 11:10;
Luke 7:27) affirm that the coming of Jesus is the coming of God.