WISDOM FOR LIVING DEVOTIONAL
DECEMBER 10, 2020
TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN SUFFERS VIOLENCE!
BY T. O. BANSO
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12 New King James Version).
It is not every time we read some verses of the Bible that we have a clear understanding of what they say. Sometimes the scriptures may not be saying what we think. For example, when Rehoboam said in 1 Kings 12:11 that whereas his father chastised the people with whips, but he would chastise them with scorpions, the word scorpions used in some Bible translations such as the King James Version, the New Living Translation, and the American Standard Version is not the scorpion, a nocturnal animal, that stings.
The Hebrew word translated scorpions there is aqrab, which means a scorpion and figuratively, a scourge or knotted whip. Rehoboam used the word scorpions figuratively. Any reader not aware of this would misinterpret what Rehoboam said as referring to the scorpion, an animal, though the Hebrew word is the same.
In Matthew 11, John the Baptist who had been imprisoned by Herod sent his disciples to Jesus Christ to ask if He was the Coming One, or they should look for another (verse 2). Jesus told them to go and tell John the things they had heard and seen – the opening of the eyes of the blind, the healing of the lame, the cleansing of the lepers, the opening of the ears of the deaf, the raising of the dead, and the preaching of the gospel to the poor. These were the signs of the promised Messiah (Isaiah 35:5-6). Thus, Jesus had fulfilled the scripture. Jesus added that blessed was he who was not offended because of Him.
John’s question was contrary to what he had spoken about Jesus, unequivocally, prior to his imprisonment. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water” (John 1:29-31 New King James Version). He had testified that Jesus was the Son of God (verse 34). Obviously, his incarceration made him ask that question. Probably the doubts were in his head rather than his heart!
After Jesus had sent John’s disciples back to him and they had departed, Jesus spoke glowingly about John the Baptist (Mathew 11:7-11). He went on to say, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (verse 12 New King James Version).
This scripture has been quoted severally and interpreted in different ways. Sometimes people give it a negative interpretation, which gives the impression that the kingdom of heaven is in danger. After all, doesn’t the verse say that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence? Violence is a negative word. The negative interpretation suggests that the kingdom of heaven is at the mercy of violent men who took it by force. If the kingdom of heaven is in trouble, then there may be no hope for those who are looking forward to it.
But thank God the Bible says, “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe” (Hebrews 12:28 New Living Translation). No shaking! The kingdom of heaven is not under any threat.
It is important to understand what this verse is saying. The church may be under Satan’s attack because of his vicious activities against Christians and the church but the kingdom of heaven is not in danger at all. It is not under violent attack.
Let us look at a few Bible translations of this verse. The International Standard Version says, “From the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it.” Though this translation tells us that from the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, we still have to understand this issue of the violent men attacking it, which, on the surface, doesn’t seem to be positive.
We have a similar challenge with the New Living Translation: “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it.” However, the New International Version translation seems better by not saying the kingdom of heaven is under attack. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Forceful men lay hold of it. Is this positive or negative?
The Amplified Bible may provide a solution to our question and assures us that the kingdom of heaven is not in danger. “And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize–a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion]” (Amplified Bible).
From this passage, we see that the forceful men or violent men attacking or laying hold of the kingdom of heaven are not the enemies of the kingdom. They are people eager to run into the kingdom and possess it as a prize. They are rushing into it with most ardent zeal and intense exertion.
Let’s see what Ellicott’s Commentary says about this. It says the phrase “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence” describes “the eager rush of the crowds of Galilee and Judæa, first to the preaching of the Baptist, and then to that of Jesus. It was, as it were, a city attacked on all sides by those who were eager to take possession of it.”
As regards “the violent take it by force”, it explains that the “violent are men of eager, impetuous zeal, who grasp the kingdom of heaven—i.e., its peace, and pardon, and blessedness—with as much eagerness as men would snatch and carry off as their own the spoil of a conquered city.” It notes that there is no thought of hostile purpose in the words.
Also, Benson’s Commentary agrees with the previous explanation that the scripture does not have any negative meaning. It states, “The spirits of men are so excited and animated by a desire after this kingdom, that it is, as it were, attacked like a besieged city, men of all sorts pressing to get into it, with a violence like that of men who are taking a place by storm.”
This is what happened in the ministry of John the Baptist that illustrates how the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Matthew 3:5-7 New King James Version). Did you see that? Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism. The crowd came (Luke 3:10). Also, the corrupt tax collectors or the publicans and soldiers came (verses 12, 14).
Similarly, Mark 1:5 says all the people of Judea and Jerusalem went out to John the Baptist and when they had confessed their sins, he baptized them.
Are you among those who have besieged the kingdom, pressing into it? After that scribe had summarized to Jesus His answer to his question on the greatest commandment, Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34 New King James Version). That suggests that the man was not yet inside the kingdom. Are you in the kingdom or near it? “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12 New King James Version).
Nevertheless, some people interpret Matthew 11:12 to mean that as the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing, so also the violent attacks against it.
However, a similar statement Jesus made in Luke 16:16 could be helpful in understanding this scripture. He said, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (New King James Version). Press into the kingdom if you’ve not been pressing. Join others to advance the kingdom of God on earth.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, convict sinners who are yet to enter into the Kingdom of God that they will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour today. Father, uphold everyone in the kingdom that they will not fall away. Holy Spirit, strengthen all servants of God and children of God to continue to be faithful to the Great Commission. Deliver them from all distractions.
(For over 300 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947