• What wrong (s) John the Baptist did for the relegation?
  • Will John be least for eternity? His martyrdom might have changed it?
  • How Jesus' warnings including Mt. 5:19 applicable to all bible students?


Mt. 11:11 (Lk. 7:28) -Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Mt. 5:19 - Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great d in the kingdom of heaven.

  • Do not get hung up on Hebrew idiom and hyperbole. These are rhetorical expressions and should not be taken literally.
    – Dottard
    Jul 3, 2021 at 22:55
  • @Dottard Understanding Matthew, written to Jews (Hebrews) requires taking a ‘second temple (Jewish/Hebrew) perspective’ - your statement ‘“should not be taken literally*” only applies to those with a ‘western’ mindset.
    – Dave
    Jul 3, 2021 at 23:24
  • @Dave - agreed - but that appears to be most here who are born in the "west".
    – Dottard
    Jul 3, 2021 at 23:50
  • @Dottard, Your hyperbole/Jewish idiom assumption, is it an arbitrary ?
    – Sam
    Jul 4, 2021 at 5:04
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Does being "least in the kingdom" signify hell in Matt 5:19?
    – Michael16
    Jul 16, 2021 at 14:29

5 Answers 5


The Hebrew idiom often uses hyperbole that should NEVER be taken literally. Here is a sample:

  • Matt 23:24 - “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
  • Matt 5:29 - if your right eye offends you, pluck it out.
  • Luke 14:26 - If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother…
  • Job 29:6 - The rock poured me out rivers of oil.
  • Deut 1:28 - The cities are great, and walled up to heaven.

... and so forth. Such obvious hyperbole should not be taken literally. Mark 11:11 is no exception.

  • Is Mt. 11:11 a response of Jesus to what John did, or just a wayside -saying? If it is hyperbole, as Mt. 23:24(fig. speech), what would it do to the cause-and-effect of the statement?
    – Sam
    Jul 15, 2021 at 19:29

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Although he is greater than any man born of a woman, he has humbled himself more than all those in the Kingdom of Heaven, by putting himself lower than all. It may be an allusion to :

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11)

... but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose (Luke 3:16)

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

  • It was not because John has humbled himself, as you infer from Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 3:30. The text (v. 11) in the context is clear; Jesus spoke in response to what John did to Jesus: John was stumbled by Jesus (v 6) , backtracked from his first faith of revelation-knowledge (Jn. 1:27 - 34 ), and he challenges Jesus of His messiah ship, questions -Are you the one or we should wait for ...etc. (I posted my answer below.)
    – Sam
    Jul 15, 2021 at 22:44

The Lord is here saying that nobody, not even the highest of the prophets, not even John, who is greater than any highest of them, before His death and glorious resurrection is or can be in the Kingdom of Heaven, for the possibility of pressing into of the Kingdom of Heaven is preached only since John, in virtue of the advent of the Lord (Luke 16:16), for this is achievable for man only through his efforts in and with Christ, who will give baptism in Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). In fact, without this baptism in Holy Spirit the baptism provided by John is not enough for obtaining the Kingdom, for the baptizer, John, himself is in need of the baptism which only the Lord Jesus Christ can provide (Matthew 3:14).

But of course all the prophets and John will be in the Kingdom of Heaven after Him defeating the sin and death on the Cross, for the Lord definitely says that Abraham, Isaac etc. will be among His co-heirs reclining at the eternal feast in the Kingdom (Matthew 8:11).

To give an analogy: any kid on a motor-boat is quicker than an Olympic champ rower; so, the Lord’s salvific grace that is given to a Christian, any Christian, is greater than anything achieved by the prophets and even John; yet, this does not mean that the prophets will be divested of the baptismal grace and the spoils of the Lord’s victory over death and sin. When an Olympic champ in rowing will be given a motorboat, given his diligence and faithfulness, he will definitely utilize it as masterly as he did utilize the motor-less boat, for as the Bible says, “faithful in small will be faithful in great also” (Luke 16:10).

Therefore, the Lord's words apply to the actual, historical condition of John, at the moment when He spoke about him: the greater than all prophets in his saintly dignity and purity of life, but not yet possessing the salvific grace that came only through death and resurrection of the Lord and that opened the heaven to all, that is to say, gave authority to all to become sons of God (John 1:12). However, proleptically, we can say that John after the Lord's resurrection will also, and did also, partake of the grace of the blessed sonship.

Thus, you can only imagine how high John the Forerunner will be, and is, in the Kingdom of Heavens after participating in the sin-and-death-vanquishing grace of the Incarnate Logos! No less than any of the 12 apostles+Paul to be sure! At least!

As to the Matthew 5:19, that is a very different issue. "Will be called least in the Kingdom" does not mean that such a one will be a member of the Kingdom; moreover, it is impossible for such a one to be a member of the Kingdom, for the Kingdom is of those who pursue perfection (Matthew 5:48), and if one fails to pursue the entirety of the commandments how can such a one pursue perfection that is necessary for being a citizen of the Kingdom? Thus, in Lord's words "least" must be understood as "0", i.e. not at all. Like in an expression: "Any tennis player coming to a tournament without a stringed racket will be counted as the least in this tournament", that is to say, not allowed to participate at all.

  • My questions were rather focused on Jesus' statement of "least" - its validity and relevance to believers who aspire to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (KH)." Jesus speaks in therm of the cause and its effect -eternal, not temporal -; not in the KH here and now, but in the future KH. Mt. 5:19, Jesus was not speaking on "keeping every Law," particularly addressing what they do/to with the Law and teaching others to do the same. Also, your last paragraph reflects v 20 - a transitional verse. (I have posted my answer below)
    – Sam
    Jul 15, 2021 at 21:33

Does it matter being the least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 11:11)? Should believers be concerned?

By saying that a lesser one in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than John, Jesus is showing that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom. John prepared the way for Jesus but dies before Christ opens the way to heaven. (Hebrews 10:19, 20) A New and Living Way inaugurated for us through the veil, when did this happen?

Hebrews 10:19-20 NASB

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh,

Why was that? Because the hope of being part of the Kingdom arrangement was not fully opened up to faithful ones until holy spirit was poured out at Pentecost 33 C.E. By that time, John the Baptist had died.​John is, though, a faithful prophet of God and will be an earthly subject of God’s Kingdom.Acts 2:1-4 Acts 2:1-4 NET

The Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost

2 Now[a] when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly[b] a sound[c] like a violent wind blowing[d] came from heaven[e] and filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And tongues spreading out like a fire[f] appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. 4 All[g] of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages[h] as the Spirit enabled them.[i]

  • Ozzie, First, your statement "Jesus is showing that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom" seems contradictory to the plain meaning of the words - in the Kingdom of Heaven. Second, " the hope of being part of the Kingdom arrangement was not fully opened up ... until .... Pentecost 33 C.E.," etc. If so, what about all the faithful, God-fearing saints -e.g., Heb. 11 -before the Pentecost? Is it not a clear contraction of the Scripture?
    – Sam
    Jul 15, 2021 at 20:12
  • Sam,Paul said that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Acts 24:15) What does that mean? The righteous like Noah , Moses, Abraham, the faithful man Daniel was told toward the end of his life: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12:13) Where will Daniel awake from the sleep of death? “The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.” (Ps 37:29) Jul 16, 2021 at 7:33
  • Sam. And Jesus foretold: “Happy are the mild-tempered, since they will inherit the earth.” (Mt 5:5) Daniel and other faithful men and women will be raised to live on the earth once again, even eternally. Jul 16, 2021 at 7:34
  • @OzzieOzzie Are you saying that "the kingdom of heaven" is NOT in heaven? Is there any biblical evidence to suggest that when Jesus said "the kingdom of heaven" he didn't mean heaven?
    – Lesley
    Mar 2 at 17:55

Face with the hard sayings of Jesus; we question ourselves -to refuse to believe and obey, or to pick-n-choose, or to neutralize (hyperbole), or to submit to the Word? Instead, the fundamental question should be, Is Jesus (and His Word) fair game? Then the answers to the questions will become more apparent.

What wrong John the Baptist did for the relegation?

First, as Jesus indicates in the context (Mt. 11:6; Lk. 7:23), John is offended by Him and has backtracked from his first view of Jesus- the lamb of God who takes away the world's sin (John 1:29). And John acts out his doubts and challenges Jesus with a question: Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? (Mt. 11:2-3).

His question shows his view of the Messiah has changed. And, it also shows he is unhappy with Jesus's ministry for not doing anything to liberate the Jewish nation. And he is challenging Jesus to do for the liberation of the nation of Israel now, or else. "We" in the question gives the impression that he speaks for the Jewish people.

John's life began being filled with the Spirit and led by Him. He said he rejoices and happy as a friend of the groom. He even prophesied - Jesus shall increase, he shall decrease. (Jn. 3:29-31)

But been in prison, facing the imminent execution, he is unhappy, doubtful, even contemplated a second thought about Messiah Jesus. So, he is in a precarious situation and is vulnerable to the devil's attack. And he acts, sends his disciples to Jesus to question Him verbatim, in public. * We all wonder what led John to this?*

It is unclear why John kept his ministry going all along, even after the ministry of Jesus began. He always was at a distance, never closed to Jesus, nor took part in His ministry. John did not have firsthand experiences of the divine power of Jesus and His teachings, as the twelves did.
By the divine revelation, not by his cognition, John introduced Jesus to Jews as the Lamb of God for the sin of the world (John 1:33). But it seems the initial revelation - knowledge of Jesus has never culminated into the complete conviction for the lack of knowing Jesus firsthand.

John spoke from his heart and acted out - never recanted. So Jesus first praises him for his work as the forerunner. And, Jesus, the great I am, no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11) utters the ultimate words - he is less than the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that will stand in eternity.

Jesus said,

"Blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (Jesus and His words) (Mt. 11:6);
"much is given, much will be required "(Lk. 12:48); every idle Word they speak will be accountable (Mt.12:36).

But, John, having begun by the Spirit, was finishing by the flesh (Gal. 3:3). He stumbled by Jesus and fell from the heights once he was to the lowest. John did not resist the fiery dot of incitement from the devils. He took and ran with it, and he fails big time!

Will he be least in eternity?

As mentioned above, John stumbled upon Jesus and acted it out on Jesus in public. He spoke from his heart - verbalized his thoughts - never recanted. And Jesus did not reverse His public statement about John, and it stands as it is.

The significance of "least" in the Kingdom of Heaven:

Jonathan Edwards once said:

"There are different degrees of glory in Heaven. Some saints will there be exalted higher in glory than others. This is a doctrine very fully revealed in the Scripture" -.

Jesus is speaking in terms of equity-everyone gets just and fair rewards according to their life of faithful service in this life (Heb. 11:6; Rev. 19:8; 20:13; 1Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12). (ref. Scripture speaks of saints in the Kingdom of Heaven in varying comparative terms -e.g., greatest, great, least, etc. (Mt. 18:4; 11:11; 5:19). (ref. The Word μικρότερος means, figuratively, least in dignity (Strong) in a comparative sense)

Jesus speaks John will be in the least group of saints, not in value or hierarchy as we know it. We know all children of God - redeemed and written in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15) - are equally precious in His eyes!

How Jesus' warnings including Mt. 5:19 applicable to all bible students?

Matthew 5:19 is another "cause and consequence" statement of Jesus on "least" in the kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus uses strong words: in verse 17- καταλύω and ἀλλὰ, and in verse 18 -ἀμήν λέγω ὑμῖν (truly I say to you). And also, He speaks with eschatological ramifications in verse 19. Therefore, verse 19 is a solid and authoritative warning for all saints entering the Kingdom of Heaven. (Ref.καταλύω (destroy, do away)a strong word; ἀλλὰ, strong adversative conjunction; ἀμήν λέγω ὑμῖν)

a. The ἐλάχιστος -least (v. 19) in the superlative, denotes the least, the lowest. Nine(9) times, Jesus used ἐλάχιστος in His discourses, denoting the smallest, the least in status, exalted state, etc. - in terms of equity, not equality, - i.g.,

Mt. 2:6 - not the least among the princes of Judah. Mt. 25:40, 45 - unto one of the least of these my brethren. Lk. 12:26 - if...not able to do that ... which is the least. Lk. 16:10 - he that is unjust/ faithful in the least.

b. And κληθήσεται (they will be called) is passive, which implies God will make the call, according to His standard with no consideration of the status and reputations they earned in this world.

Jesus speaks to His disciples (Mt. 5:1) that He came not to abolish but fulfill the Laws ( with His life) - the least and the greatest and all. Therefore, Disciples must adhere to the Law without disparagement, destroying (=dismantle, disarm), and pick-n- chose any part of the Law. He is saying, God's Word is NOT fair game.

c. In verse 19, Jesus is not asking Disciples to keep every command and teach. Instead, He is speaking more on how they treat the commands. They must first have reverence for the Word of God and "do them" wholeheartedly, and teach others to do them.

The λύω (loose, break)(v. 19) is a lesser form of καταλύω - do away, destroy (v17). It signifies Jesus' warning is about all manners of men's arbitrary attempts to the commands -i.e., set aside, break apart and pick-n-chose, glossing over, attributing unwarranted hyperbole to Jesus' words, etc.

"Whoever...teaches" refers to all who take any teaching roles- temporary and lasting, in all platforms -i.e., school, pulpits, and the cyberspace (BH included) which have a broader audience influencing them until it is down.

Whoever "relaxes " positioned in the same text infers, "whoever" himself does the λύω and teaches others what he did with the Word -not restricted to Mosaic Law.

For saints, to have or not to have a healthy and blessed life here and in the coming Kingdom of God, hangs on keeping the Law of God. For the tampering/meddling the Law, they will be called the least/the lowest; for being stumbled by Jesus, John was called, less (lower) than the least in the Heaven. We, too, are susceptible to being called "least" for the same causes, unless we stay vigilant against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:1), and watch and pray not to enter into temptation and not fall (Mt. 26:41; 1 Cor. 10:12).

Jesus states He had come to fulfill the Law; it will be in effect until the end of the world. And, the Law must be taught and preached as it is, un-tampered, unadulterated, and unhampered in all manners, because the Law is the way to the righteous living of saints, the light and salt to the world(v. 16).

Yes. Being the least in the Kingdom of Heaven matters, because it is the consequences of "being stumbled by Jesus" and "tampering" to the Word of God, as the devil did in the Garden and to this day like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). All saints should be concerned about both the cause and consequence.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.