Did John the Baptist go to heaven right after death?

By Paul Dion, STL

Read these words of Jesus which you will hear in this Gospel story about John the Baptist: "History has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer. Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11).

We're talking about Jesus' first cousin here. This is the precurser of the Messiah. His father was a priest. He was still in the womb of his mother when he leapt for joy when Elizabeth and Mary met when Mary was in the early stages of her pregnancy with Jesus. John dedicated his entire life to the mission of spreading the word and the love of God. John was a straight talking prophet calling for the repentance of the Chosen People. John himself washed Jesus in the waters of baptism from the Jordan.

How then can Jesus say, "Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he."? So, when John died, the greatest of all prophets, he didn't go to the kingdom of God on the Archangel Express?

That's right. Although John had seen the Anointed One and heard of his wonderful works, he, like Moses, did not enter into the Kingdom during his lifetime. Why not? Let it all hang out. You know that you have an answer and you also know that you have questions. Fire away. Let us know.

Of course if you don't want to do that, check out the article "Rejoice in Hope - John the Baptist: "Gaudete Sunday" and you will find the answer.

If you still need to get something off your chest, we await your sentiments with open arms and a sharpened pencil. Post your comments below.

God bless you all.


  1. Anonymous8:58 AM

    I read the article and now I'm confused. How can John the Baptist not go to heaven. If he a most holy man even praised by Jesus can't make it there, how can I make it?

  2. We believe that John the Baptist, is now in heaven. But when Jesus said what He said about John, heaven had not yet been opened since Jesus had not yet lived, suffered, died and resurrected.
    Remember what we say in the Credo, "...He descended into hell..." The saints who died before the saving action of Jesus were in a kind of limbo, awaiting to be delivered according to God's promise. John the Baptist happened to be one of them because remember that he was beheaded before the resurrection of Jesus.
    Jesus broght the Kingdom of God to earth and opened heaven for everyone, including John the Baptist.
    What Jesus said about John the Baptist therefore is pretty much a prediction that John the Baptist would go to heaven at the appropriate time.
    Paul Dion, STL
    Theology Editor,

  3. I concur with Paul Dion... I was about to write something along the same lines...


  4. Anonymous6:25 AM

    Well said.

  5. Plus, like the rest of us - surely he was also sinful and therefore would have required to atone for those in Purgatory?

  6. Mark Wilson12:02 PM

    Precisely. Paul Dion got it just right.


  7. This is my understanding:
    When Abraham, the other Old Testament Saints, and John the Baptist died, their spirits did not go to heaven. This was because Jesus had not yet died for their sins. As is evident from Lk 16.19-26, the spirits of all who died
    (both the righteous and sinners alike) were sent to the netherworld (in Greek -"Hades," in Hebrew - Sheol; the place of the dead)
    The netherworld - the place of the dead, is contrasted with heaven in the Bible (read and see notes (NAB) on Luke 10:15, Luke 16:19-26, Matthew 11:23, Acts 2:27, 31) It was a kind of temporary holding place where both the saved and unsaved were sent prior to Christ's atoning death and resurrection.
    At the time of Lk 16.19-26, Hades / Sheol was separated into two "compartments." Those two compartments were separated by an uncrossable gulf (Lk 16.26). One compartment was a place of torment, occupied by unrighteous, unrepentent sinners. (This will become Hell, the "lake of fire"; Gehenna) This is where the rich man's spirit was sent.
    The other compartment was Paradise, a place of comfort for the righteous, referred to as "Abraham's bosom." This is where the spirits of Lazarus, John the Baptist, and the other righteous believers were sent prior to the resurrection of Jesus.
    When Jesus died and "descended to the dead" he actually visited the "paradise" realm of Hades and took the spirits of all the righteous up to Heaven with Him.

  8. In short, John the Baptist is in heaven. Matthew 11:11 is drawing a contrast between two era's; the age of The Law and the age of Grace. The phrase, "Kingdom of Heaven" does not refer to "Heaven" but to that which finds it's origin in heaven, but is bound to earth; post Christ's resurrection. John died before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, while John is considered to be the greatest of all who lived until his time (because he was the front runner of Jesus), he never experienced Christ "in" him, only "with" him. These two small prepositions define the difference between the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament God was "with" us. In the New Testament God is "In" us Abraham, Moses, David, and many others will most assuredly be in heaven, but like John, God was with them. Those living in New Testament times (the age of Grace) can experience God (the Holy Spirit) "in" them (speaking of one's second birth). What a privilege it is to live in an Age of Grace.

  9. While in prison, JB doubted Jesus like the rest of the non-believers. Yet, we know that heaven is for believers.