The Review and Herald


April 8, 1873

John's Mission and Death


Herod had been exalted by his lordly guests for constancy and superior judgment. And he did not wish to appear fickle or rash in character. The oath had been made on the account of Herod's guests. And had one of them offered a word of remonstrance, to deter him from the fulfillment of his promise, he would gladly have saved the life of John. Herod gave them opportunity to speak in behalf of John. They had traveled long distances to the mountains in the wilderness to listen to his earnest, intelligent, and powerful discourses. Herod told them if it would not be considered a special mark of dishonor to them, he would not abide by his oath. It was on their account he carried out his promise. Why was there no voice to be heard in that company to keep Herod from fulfilling his mad vow? They were intoxicated with wine, and to their benumbed senses there was nothing to be reverenced. RH April 8, 1873, par. 1

Although the royal guests virtually had an invitation to release him from his oath, their tongues seemed paralyzed. Herod himself was under the delusion that he must, in order to save his own reputation, keep an oath made under the influence of intoxication. Moral principle, the only safeguard of the soul, was paralyzed. Herod and his guests were slaves, held in the lowest bondage to brute appetite. The guardians of the people, men in authority, upon whose decision the life of eminent men have hung, should have been condemned to death if found guilty of intemperance and crime. Those who have power to enforce laws, should be law-keepers. They should be men of self-government, fully enlightened in regard to the laws governing their physical, mental, and moral being, that their vigor of intellect may not be clouded, and that their standard of refinement and moral feeling may be exalted. RH April 8, 1873, par. 2

Herod commanded the executioner to perform the terrible act of taking the life of John. This request was carried out, which branded Herod forever with dishonor. The very act which he thought, while his reason and judgment were perverted, was maintaining his honor and dignity, made his name detestable. The head of the honored prophet of God was soon brought in before Herod and his guests. Those lips that had answered the inquiry of Herod why he could not be his disciple, and which faithfully declared the necessity of reform in his life, were now sealed. Never more would his voice be heard in trumpet tones calling the sinner to repentance. The reproofs of John had stirred Herod's conscience, and had caused his proud heart to tremble. But now he, himself, had commanded the head of this remarkable prophet to be severed from his body, to gratify the revenge of a licentious woman. RH April 8, 1873, par. 3

Herodias received the bloody head of John with fiendish satisfaction. She exulted that she had her revenge, and that Herod's conscience would no more be disturbed. But this inhuman act on her part made her name notorious and abhorred. She had, by this satanic conduct, enshrined this good and self-sacrificing prophet in the hearts not only of his disciples, but very many who had listened to his warning message, who had been aroused and convinced by his teachings, yet had not moral courage to take their stand openly as his disciples. His reproofs and his example in reform were remembered, and this inhuman act of Herod, in taking the life of John, rejoiced Herodias, but brought sorrow and regret to many hearts. But Herodias could not silence the influence of John's reproofs. They were to extend down through every generation to the close of time, and her corrupt life, and her satanic revenge, stand upon the page of sacred history, making her name infamous. RH April 8, 1873, par. 4

In the martyrdom of John, we have the result of intemperance. This eventful birthday of Herod should carry an earnest and faithful lesson of warning, and exhortation to Christian temperance. The lovers of pleasure should look upon the birthday feast of Herod as a warning to beware of self-indulgences and popular pleasure. Herod and his guests were partly intoxicated. Reason was servant to the baser passions. And after Herod and his guests had gorged themselves, like beasts, with luxurious food, they added to their surfeiting, drunkenness. The mental powers were enervated by the pleasure of sense, which perverted their ideas of justice and mercy. Satan seized upon this opportunity, in the person of Herodias, to lead them to rush into decisions which cost the precious life of one of God's prophets. RH April 8, 1873, par. 5

The minds of Herod and his guests, under the effects of intemperance in eating and in drinking, were in a state of animal excitement. Herod was under the delusion that his oath, made under the excitement of feasting, dancing, and revelry, when nothing was too sacred for them to profane, must be kept. The life of one of the greatest prophets that God had sent as a messenger to the earth, was in the balance, and this company of great men pronounced sentence of death after the intellect and manhood had been sacrificed to sensual indulgence. RH April 8, 1873, par. 6

Herod was brought to the test before his guests. Would he lift himself up against the Lord of Heaven, and exalt his oath above the commandment of God, which saith, “Thou shalt not kill”? Would he preserve his honor and dignity as a king, and violate the law of God in sacrificing the life of an innocent man? Or would he humble himself to ask his guests to release him from his rash oath. If Herod and his guests had preserved the vigor of their intellect, their minds would have been awake to sense the noble demands of justice and duty. Calm reason would have borne sway, and they would have recoiled with horror at the thought of beheading an innocent man, and he an exalted prophet of God. RH April 8, 1873, par. 7

When Herod commenced his feast of revelry, if one had suggested to him the part he would act before its close, in taking the life of John, he would have answered, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this?” But, under the excitement of wine, his rash vow was made, that led to results that he would not cease to regret as long as life should last. RH April 8, 1873, par. 8

After the feast of Herod had ended, the effects of his intoxication and revelry had passed away, and reason had resumed her throne, the king was filled with remorse. He was constantly seeking to find relief from the sting of a guilty conscience. His faith in John as an honored prophet of God, was unshaken. As he reflected upon his life of self-denial, his powerful discourses, his solemn, earnest appeals, his sound judgment as a counselor, and then reflected that he had put him to death, his conscience was fearfully troubled. While engaged in the affairs of the nation, receiving honors from men, he bore a smiling face and dignified mien, while he concealed an anxious, aching heart, and was constantly terrified with fearful forebodings that the curse of God was upon him. RH April 8, 1873, par. 9

When Herod heard of the wonderful works of Christ in healing the sick, casting out devils, and in raising the dead, he was exceedingly troubled and perplexed. His convictions were that God, whom John preached, was indeed present in every place, and that he had witnessed the wild mirth and wicked dissipation in the banqueting room, and that his ear had heard his command to the executioner to behead John. His eye had seen the exultation of Herodias, and the taunting and insult with which she reproached the severed head of her enemy. And many things which he had heard from the lips of the prophet, seemed now to speak to his conscience in louder tones than his preaching in the wilderness. He had heard from the lips of the prophet that nothing could be hid from God. RH April 8, 1873, par. 10

When Herod heard of the works of Christ, he thought that God had resurrected John, and sent him forth with still greater power to condemn sin. He was in constant fear that John would avenge his death by passing condemnation upon him and his house. “And king Herod heard of him [Christ] (for his name was spread abroad); and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.” RH April 8, 1873, par. 11

The Lord followed Herod as is described in Deuteronomy, “The Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear, day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.” RH April 8, 1873, par. 12

The life and mission of John were ended. Christ had said of him that he was more than a prophet. Again he said, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” He had been executed as a criminal, not because of any guilt resting upon him, but for the reason that he had fearlessly reproved crime. His spotless life, his practical piety, his virtue and justice, condemned the dishonest and sinful lives of the Jews as well as the Gentiles. RH April 8, 1873, par. 13

Said Christ, in vindication of John, “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” Not only was John a prophet to foretell future events, but he was a child of promise, filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth, and was ordained of God to execute a special work as a reformer, in preparing a people for the reception of Christ. The prophet John was the connecting link between the two dispensations. RH April 8, 1873, par. 14

The religion of the Jews, in consequence of their departure from God, consisted mostly in ceremony. John was the lesser light, which was to be followed by a greater light. He was to shake the confidence of the people in their traditions, and call their sins to their remembrance, and lead them to repentance; that they might be prepared to appreciate the work of Christ. God communicated to John by inspiration, illuminating the prophet that he might remove the superstition and darkness from the minds of the honest Jews, which had been, through false teachings for generations, gathering upon them. RH April 8, 1873, par. 15

The least disciple that followed Jesus, that witnessed his miracles, and listened to his divine lessons of instruction, and heard the comforting words which fell from his lips, was more privileged than John the Baptist, for he had a clearer light. No other light has shone, or ever will shine, upon the intellect of sinful, fallen man, save that which was, and is, communicated through Him who is the light of the world. Christ and his mission had been but dimly understood through the shadowy sacrifices. Even John thought that the reign of Christ would be in Jerusalem, and that he would set up a temporal kingdom, the subjects of which would be holy. RH April 8, 1873, par. 16

While John was in prison, he had contemplated Christ's taking his power and authority, and subduing the kingdoms of the world under his rule. Then he expected to be released from prison. As his expectations were not realized, he became impatient. Unbelief took possession of his mind, and he sent his disciples to inquire of Christ, “Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? John did not clearly discern the character of Christ's kingdom. The future immortal life through Christ was not distinctly understood by him. Christ's first advent to the world was to dispel the dense moral darkness and blindness of fallen man, in consequence of sin. “The light shone in the midst of darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” The lessons of practical instruction which Christ gave the people shed a flood of light on the prophecies. RH April 8, 1873, par. 17

Although not one of the prophets had a higher mission or greater work to perform than had John, yet he was not to see even the result of his own mission. He was not privileged to be with Christ and witness the divine power attending the greater light, which was manifested in the recovery of health to the sick, of sight to the blind, of hearing to the deaf. He did not see the light which shone through every word of Christ, reflecting glory upon the promises in prophecy. The world was illuminated with pure light from the brightness of the Father's glory in the person of his Son; but John was denied the privilege of seeing the display of wisdom and power of God in the unsearchable riches of the knowledge of Christ. RH April 8, 1873, par. 18

Those who were privileged with being with Christ when he walked a man among men, and listened to his divine teachings under a variety of circumstances while preaching in the temple—walking in the streets, teaching the multitudes by the way side, and in the open air by the sea-side, and while an invited guest seated at the table, ever giving words of instruction to meet the cases of all who needed his help; healing, comforting, and reproving, as circumstances required—were more exalted than John the Baptist. RH April 8, 1873, par. 19