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Questions & Answers > Questions on tricky passages > How can John the Baptist be the greatest man on earth and the least in the Kingdom (Lk 7:28)?

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Question:  Hi Graham, I’ve been reading Luke, and am wondering about 7: 28, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no-one greater that John;  yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."  How can he be 'the greatest man on earth', and the 'least in the kingdom of God?'  (Kim, Jesus Week Oct 2012)

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Hi Kim!  Good question.  When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom, he was usually speaking of the future completed Kingdom when he will return and rule on earth from Jerusalem.   Occasionally he said things like "the kingdom is among you" (Lk 17:21;  note that "within you" is not a translation I agree with), which I take to mean that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are a part or vanguard of the Kingdom;  but Jesus’ ministry in 30AD was not the full completed Kingdom which God will set up when Jesus returns.  It's like saying "The Allies are among you" on 6 June 1944 (D-day and the Normandy invasions), but they had control of only a small strip of land and in fact it was another year of fighting before the Allies were in full control of Europe.

If you want to know the full picture of what Jesus and the prophets said about the Kingdom of God, see the presentations A09 The History of Israel.ppt and A10 The Kingdom of God.ppt or the book The Kingdom of God.pdf, all on this website.  In the full Kingdom, its people will be quite remarkable.  Jesus said that "the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom" after the angels remove the bad people at the end of the age (Mt 13:43), which I take to mean that they will have very bright visible glory.  Isaiah, when prophesying about the future glory of Jerusalem in the Kingdom, said that "The least of you [Zion, Jerusalem] will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation” (Is 60:22).  Its resurrected citizens will be like angels (Mt 22:30, Mk 12:25, Lk 20:36).  They will live for ever, and sickness will evaporate.  They'll be a super-race!  Even the lowest people in that Kingdom will be like demi-gods compared to those we consider "great men" now—which is what I think Lk 7:28 is saying.  John was a great and remarkable man:  all of Judea went out to hear him and held him to be a prophet, and he was fearless in what he said;  but in the Kingdom, everyone will be much greater than even John the Baptist was.

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