Matthew 11:12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."
Luke 16:16 "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it."
Many people wonder what Jesus meant by His statement “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force” in Matthew 11:12. There are at least two ways His statement can be understood. One interpretation is that the two parts of His statement are essentially the same; He’s saying the same thing but in different ways. In other words, the kingdom is under attack and its attackers are violent men who are trying to take it by force.
The phrase “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence” is a phrase that seems to refer to persecution against Jesus' movement which was announced by John the Baptist and, of course, John the Baptist was arrested, imprisoned and beheaded by King Herod. Jesus mentions John the Baptist to point out that he was a casualty of this spiritual war and a victim of this trend of violence against the Kingdom Of Heaven.
This violent persecution against John by Herod was an example of the type of violence that the Kingdom will experience and Jesus says it began with John and it will continue to happen as two kingdoms clash with one another.
The second part of his statement is a little more difficult because he says “the violent take it by force”. What does that mean? Again, some people think the Jesus is just restating the same thought about violence against the Kingdom of God by violent men, but using different words.
The word Matthew used for “violence” and “violent” is a Greek word that means “forceful”. In the Greek this literally says: The Kingdom of Heaven is being forced and the forceful ones are snatching it. In other words, “forceful” people will take the Kingdom of God by force.
So, if we were to understand that Jesus is actually making two separate statements, one statement that the Kingdom of God is under violent attack and the second that those who are the defenders of the Kingdom must be equally forceful and determined to defend it and expand it, then this clearly describes the spiritual warfare taking place between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God; the clashing of two kingdoms.
There is a war going on and it’s a war of between two kingdoms. This is not a natural war but rather it is a spiritual war that often manifests itself in the natural world and as the Kingdom of God advances it is forcibly resisted. Therefore, Christians need to take hold of the Kingdom and advance the Kingdom forcibly as well.
The Kingdom of God will not be established without stiff opposition from the Kingdom of Darkness and those who attempt to enter into the Kingdom of God are going to have to do so under that stiff opposition because there are two clashing kingdoms, one which is loyal to Satan and the other is loyal to God.
There is no neutral ground in this spiritual war, in this clash of kingdoms you are either in one kingdom or the other. Jesus said that “He that is not with me is against me;” (Matt. 12:30).
Now, of course, Jesus is not saying that we should use physical violence because He clearly spoke against doing so. When He was being arrested, Jesus told Peter to “Put away your sword: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52). When Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, He told Pilate that “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here (John 18:36).
Even though the hostile world often uses physical violence as a means of resisting the Kingdom of Heaven, those who follow Jesus do not use the same tactic. Christians do not persecute or physically force people to enter in, however, our strategy is still one of force, one of power, because the force that we use is truth and the Power of God found within the Gospel! Romans 1:16 says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes”.
Being “forceful” does not mean that you are to be physically violent it means that you are just as determined or even more determined to seize the Kingdom for yourself and others as the enemy is determined to stop you. Often the world uses extreme force in trying to keep people out of the Kingdom of Heaven; likewise, those in the Kingdom of Heaven must be extremely forceful in helping people to enter into the Kingdom.
When someone leaves the kingdom of darkness and enters into the Kingdom of Light, they become an automatic target by a spiritual force that doesn't want Jesus to reign as King and that kingdom of darkness reacts violently. When the Kingdom of Heaven meets that violent force we must have an even greater force and resolve not to shrink back, not to be dissuaded, removed or to lose spiritual ground that’s been taken for Christ through the Gospel!
Jesus’ followers must not be intimidated by violence whether physical or spiritual! Christ’s followers have to meet the resistance of the world with an even greater resolve in following Jesus and in taking ground by leading others to loyalty to Him.
The parallel verse to Matthew 11:12 is Luke 16:16 which says “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.” Again, Jesus is saying is that we must be just as determined to press into the Kingdom of God as its enemies are to keep us out of it.
So, what does it mean to press “into” the Kingdom? Pressing into it means to follow Jesus by dying to yourself and taking up a cross as a true follower of Jesus. This requires great force or determination because everything is fighting against you. The enemy of your soul, the devil, other people and your even own sinful nature wars against you. But we are challenged to push back the darkness.
Paul says that God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).
Your salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of God was NOT without violence! God’s dear Son suffered and died a violent, bloody death in order give you access into His Kingdom!
Therefore, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that all of you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that all of you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13).
Press hard into the Kingdom of God and stand your ground! There will be only one victor in this great battle of light versus darkness and His name is King Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Be loyal and serve your King and never give into the power of darkness in this world!
Revelation 12:10-11 "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now has come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."