NKJV - 11 Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
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In my opinion, Jesus was indicating that John the Baptist was the culmination of the old covenant of works in order to obtain eternal life that God had established with Israel through Moses by the giving of the Law, and of the prophets whom God had appointed to restore Israel to obedience to the Law, and to foretell and prepare Israel for the coming of God's promised Messiah John's appearance immediately preceding the arrival of the Messiah -- which the Old Testament (and Jesus Himself) likened to the previous prophetic mission of Elijah (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 17:12) -- gave John a place of unique importance among these prophets, which justified Jesus' comment about there having been no one born of women (that is, through normal human procreation) who had been greater than John. However, the appearance of Jesus signaled the end of the covenant of works, which was replaced through Jesus' perfect obedience to and fulfillment of the Law (of which no one else had proven capable), and through His subsequent sacrificial death and resurrection, by a covenant of grace and faith. Those who then placed their faith in Jesus' atoning death, rather than in their own imperfect works, in order to be found acceptable in God's sight and to obtain eternal life, could have Jesus' perfect righteousness credited to them, and thus become heirs with Christ of God's kingdom (the kingdom of heaven) and have eternal life in His presence. Since John's preaching (as mentioned previously) represented the culmination of the covenant of works, through which no one could achieve the holiness that God demanded in order to be worthy to live eternally in His kingdom, Jesus was saying that, despite John's pre-eminence as a prophet, even the lowest person who would be able to enter God's kingdom by relying, not on their own works, but on faith in Christ, was therefore greater than John.
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