These last two groups came in a self‑righteous attitude, and not as the sinners they were. John told them to come in true repentance; and he reproved them for their sins, warning them of the nearness of God’s judgment.
So great was the effect produced by his preaching that some people thought he was the Messiah. A few verses contain all that is recorded of his preaching, and they are entirely on repentance and the subsequent change of heart and life. He was uncompromising in spirit, and did not hesitate to renounce evil. Herod knew that John was a holy and righteous man, and at first heard him gladly (Mark 6:20). But Herod married his brother’s wife, while the brother was living, thereby committing one of the worst forms of adultery; and because of John’s condemnation of the act, Herod put him in prison and eventually beheaded him.
During John’s imprisonment he apparently felt some uncertain about Christ’s Kingdom. Perhaps he had perplexing thoughts that harassed his mind. This great man was human and subject to temptation, doubts, and depressions the same as we are. He, too, knew how to get relief from them. He did not ask another man for an opinion but sent direct to Christ, asking the one question that would settle all his doubts: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
John, and Christ’s disciples also, envisioned Christ’s Kingdom as an earthly one instead of a spiritual kingdom in men’s hearts. Jesus showed John’s disciples what He was doing. He tested His own ministry in the same way that we are to test another’s spiritual condition, viz., by His fruit and not only by the profession that is made. The works that He was doing were proof that He was the Son of God. No other man was able to do them, or to speak the words that Jesus spoke. He was the true Messiah. John’s ministry closed the period of the law; and Jesus said, when speaking of him, that no greater man had ever lived, but that the least in the kingdom of Heaven (the time when the fullness of the Gospel is proclaimed) was greater than John. This does not mean that we are more holy than John, nor more devoted to God than he was. It means that we live in a period when the light is being manifested in a greater way, and when we can receive greater blessings from God. Many who lived in Old Testament times, and prophesied of these days, desired to live now and see what we see, but could not.
John was greater than the other prophets, because he was the privileged one who could announce Jesus’ coming. We can say that Jesus not only has come, but died for our sins, has risen again, and has ascended to finish redemption’s plan; so our position is even greater than John’s. But John’s greatness was due not only to the time in which he lived; God’s Spirit dwelt in him, and he continually endured hardness for the cause of Christ. He had an ardent zeal to make Christ known, and outstanding fidelity and courage in rebuking sin, which proved to be instrumental in promoting a reformation among the Jews.
Jesus said that, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.” He meant that those who receive God’s blessings will do so because they are determined to have them at any cost. They seek constantly, going deeper in consecration, preparing their hearts for the desired experience, until it is theirs.
We see in our lesson text that repentance, with sincere and heartfelt sorrow for sin, is the only way a sinner can come to God and receive pardon. A hypocrite can obtain nothing from God until he comes as a sinner, asking for mercy. God’s stand against the sin of adultery is clearly shown here. Some people lay aside the Word of God on this important teaching, but it still stands. It is wrong to marry if one has another companion still living; and no matter how the state laws read, it is still wrong. The king was guilty, but John would not compromise. He held to the Word of God and was soon in Heaven with God Himself. We are living in marvellous days, in which the fullness of the Gospel is manifested; an age when the Holy Spirit is being given to prepare the Bride of Christ. We can be in that number and have a place no Old Testament saint will have, if we, like they, serve God in holiness and righteousness an the days of our life; and, in addition, we shall receive what they could not receive: the anointing which was first given to the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost the wonderful baptism of the Holy Ghost.