Christ said that John was “more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:9) because it was John’s privilege to announce the coming of Him to whom all the prophets had borne witness to the world. John was the personal forerunner of the Messiah (Matthew 3:3;). This was the most important task of all generations.
The OT prophets all looked forward to the time of John and spoke of the Messiah who was then to appear (1 Peter 1:10, 11). Thus, it could be said that the prophetic office of OT times reached a climax in John. And Christ confirms the fact that John the Baptist was the one to whom the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 (and also of Isaiah 40:3–5 and Mallachi 4:5, 6) looked forward.
Any of the prophets of OT times would have gladly sacrificed every privilege that might have been theirs for the supreme privilege of introducing Christ to the world. Like Abraham, they had all looked forward to the day when Christ would come and were glad even to see it by faith (John 8:56).
In John were combined all the great qualities of a true and faithful prophet. In character, conviction, and faithfulness no prophet had excelled John the Baptist. In a sense, John was only at the door of the kingdom, looking in, while the humblest follower of Jesus was in the very presence of the King Himself.
John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah from the spring of a.d. 27 to the spring of a.d. 29 (Matthew 3:1). And the theme of John’s preaching was the kingdom of heaven is at hand which was later the same theme of Jesus and His disciples on the Third Galilean Tour (Matthew 3:2; 4:23; 10:7).
In His service,