Questions From Readers
Should we conclude from Matthew 11:11 that Jesus knew in advance that John the Baptizer would die before Jesus?
Yes, Jesus evidently did know that John would not survive to become an anointed Christian, for Jesus commented: “Truly I say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.”—Matthew 11:11.
When the angel Gabriel announced the coming birth of John, he foretold that John would, “with Elijah’s spirit and power, . . . get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.” John was to be a forerunner, preparing a people for Jehovah’s Messiah. But nothing in that divine announcement indicated that John himself would become a disciple of the coming Messiah, nor was there any suggestion to that effect in the prophetic statement made by John’s father, Zechariah.—Luke 1:17, 67-79.
Thus, after baptizing Jesus, John continued to preach and baptize, sticking to his assignment to prepare a people. John miraculously knew that Jesus would provide a baptism with holy spirit, but John did not say that he himself would receive holy spirit, becoming an anointed Christian. (Matthew 3:11) John also recognized that he would go on decreasing, while Jesus would go on increasing.—John 3:22-30.
When Jesus said what we read at Matthew 11:11, John was already imprisoned. Jesus made it known in advance that this imprisoned prophet was lesser than the least one who in the future would serve as a king-priest in the heavens. Yet, Jesus also seems to have known that John was soon to die, passing off the earthly scene before the “new” way to heavenly life was opened. (Hebrews 10:19, 20) That meant that John would not survive until Pentecost 33 C.E., when the anointing of Jesus’ disciples with spirit began. Hence, Jesus’ comment at Matthew 11:11 can be taken as well to be an indication that he knew that John would not go to heaven.