One who goes in advance to prepare for the coming of another. This might include scouting and spying, clearing the way, proclaiming and giving notice of another’s approach, or showing the way for others to follow. The forerunner is usually, but not always, of less importance than the person who follows.
It was the Oriental custom that runners go before the royal chariot to prepare and announce the king’s coming and to assist him generally. (1 Sam. 8:11) Absalom and Adonijah, in imitation of such regal dignity and to add prestige and seeming sanction to their respective rebellions, placed fifty runners before their personal chariots.—2 Sam. 15:1; 1 Ki. 1:5; see RUNNERS.
John the Baptist was in reality the forerunner of Christ, in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 and 4:5, 6: “Someone is calling out in the wilderness: ‘Clear up the way of Jehovah, . . . Make the highway . . . straight.’” “I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me.” John’s advance proclamation, therefore, aroused people to expect, look for and wait for Jesus, that, in turn, they might listen to him, honor him and follow him. (Matt. 3:1-12; 11:7, 10, 14; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:13-17, 76; John 1:35-37; see “Let Your Name Be Sanctified,” chapters 13 and 16.) In a similar manner, messengers were sent out in advance of Jesus, and these went into a village of the Samaritans “to make preparation for him.”—Luke 9:52.
Jesus himself, however, is the one referred to in the only passage of Scripture using the word “forerunner.” (Heb. 6:19, 20) He was not a forerunner in the sense of being inferior to those who followed after him. Rather, he was the first to enter heavenly glory, opening and preparing the way for the heavenly congregation of his footstep followers. (John 14:2, 3) Hence, they have boldness to enter in through the way their Forerunner inaugurated.—Heb. 10:19-22.