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John's Last Days

John the Baptist had a very successful and famous ministry, some even thought that he was the long-awaited Messiah, a suggestion that John publicly corrected in no uncertain terms:

"John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease." He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all." (John 3:27-31 RSV)

John's Last Days

Prison John the Baptist was a fearless (of man, that is - he righteously feared God, which made him fearless of any man) servant of God. He spoke the Truth, plainly, bluntly, to all. That included to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee (see The Herods), who arrested and imprisoned John in the fortress of Machaerus, located in the southern part of Perea, east of the Dead Sea, the place where John would spend his remaining days:

"For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; because John said to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." (Matthew 14:3-4 RSV)

The Baptism of Jesus, by John, was the point that marked the ending of John's ministry, and the beginning of Jesus' ministry. As John himself in effect stated above, the "world" was not big enough for both of them. It was not long after that John was imprisoned, as recorded in the verses above. Even in prison however, John did manage to keep informed of the progress of the just-beginning, as yet little-known ministry of The One that the famous John had prepared the way for:

"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, "Are You He who is to come, or shall we look for another?"

"And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me."

"As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, 'Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.'"

"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the Prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come." (Matthew 11:2-14 RSV)

John's inevitable martyrdom (God could have rescued him anytime, but why would He have done that? John by then had successfully fulfilled the reason that he was miraculously born to his past the time of having children parents i.e. Luke 1:7,11-17, see also Elizabeth) came about, despite Herod's fear that killing such a popular prophet would cause an uprising, through Herodias:

"And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet."

"But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter." And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus." (Matthew 14:5-12 RSV)

Fact Finder: In Matthew 11:14 (quoted above), Jesus Christ referred to John the Baptist as the "Elijah who is to come." What did He mean by "Elijah"?
See The Elijah To Come

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