The King's Ambassador
Jesus said, "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." Matthew 11:11. What do we know about this solitary man whom Jesus called the greatest of the prophets?
When John began preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, people came from miles around to hear this powerful, fearless, and humble messenger. In glaring contrast to the religious
leaders of the day, his life was marked with holiness and simplicity. While the priests wore luxurious clothing, John wore a modest garment of camel hair with a leather belt. While they were feasting, John was fasting or eating locusts (carob pods) and wild honey. He refused to drink any wine or strong drink, that he might be filled with the Spirit of God (Luke 1:15). Rather than ornate synagogues, John chose the rivers and rocky valleys as his cathedral for preaching. Soon people were asking, "Could this man be Elijah?"
John did dress like the Old Testament prophet, but he was not Elijah reincarnated. The angel Gabriel had explained to John's parents before his birth that he would go "in the spirit and power of Elias [the Greek word for "Elijah"] ... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:17.
The key to John's ministry was that he would have the same power of the Holy Spirit as did Elijah to cause a revival among God's people. His special work was to preach repentance for sin and prepare people for Jesus' first coming.
The Bible says there will be an entire army of Elijahs and John the Baptists in the last days to do a similar work in preparing the world for Jesus' second coming. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Malachi 4:5. (See also Joel 2:28-31.)