THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN SUFFERS VIOLENCE!

WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL

OCTOBER 22, 2023

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 scripture that is easily understood. Sometimes the scriptures may not be saying what the readers think. For example, when Rehoboam said in 1 Kings 12:11 that whereas his father chastised the people with whips, 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 as “scorpions” is aqrab, which means a scorpion and figuratively, a scourge or knotted whip (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Any reader not aware of the word “scorpions” would misinterpret what Rehoboam said as referring to the scorpion, an animal, though the Hebrew word is the same. The Christian Standard Bible uses the phrase “barbed whips” instead of scorpions while the Contemporary English Version uses “pieces of sharp metal.” The New English Translation Bible says, “My father punished you with ordinary whips; I will punish you with whips that really sting your flesh.”

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 if 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 before 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). His incarceration made him ask that question. The doubts were in his head, not his heart!

After Jesus had sent John’s disciples back to him and they had departed, Jesus spoke glowingly about John the Baptist (Matthew 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 is often quoted and variously interpreted. Sometimes people give it a negative interpretation, which gives the impression that the kingdom of heaven is in danger. Violence is a negative word. The negative interpretation of the scripture suggests that the kingdom of heaven is at the mercy of violent men who took it by force. But if the kingdom of heaven is in trouble, then there may be no hope for those who are looking forward to it.

However, the Bible says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28 New King James Version). No shaking! 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.

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 from heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it” (Matthew 11:12). 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 is not positive. “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it” (New Living Translation).

However, this is how the GOD’S WORD Translation puts this scripture: “From the time of John the Baptizer until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful people have been seizing it.” Forceful men have been seizing it! Is this positive or negative?

Another translation sheds light. “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, Classic Edition).

From this passage, we see that the forceful or violent men seizing 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 the most ardent zeal and intense exertion despite the violent assault against the kingdom of heaven. “But from the time of John the Baptist till now, the Kingdom of the Heavens has been suffering violent assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force” (Weymouth  New Testament).

But let’s see what Ellicott’s Commentary says about this scripture. 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,” Ellicott’s Commentary explains: “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 explanation that the scripture does not have a 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: 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). 

Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism. The crowd came and asked him what they should do (Luke 3:10). Also, the corrupt tax collectors or the publicans and soldiers came and asked the same question (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 of heaven, pressing into it?

However, some Bible teachers interpret Matthew 11:12 to mean that as the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing, so also the violent attacks against it, or despite the violent attack against the kingdom of heaven, violent men are also advancing it. Are you violently attacking/assaulting the kingdom of heaven or forcefully advancing it?

In Luke 16:16, Jesus 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). I f you’ve not been pressing into the kingdom, press into it. Join others to advance the kingdom of heaven on earth. Don’t attack the kingdom of heaven.

TAKE ACTION!

If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that 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 God raised Him on 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 a palm tree and grow like a 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 so that they will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour today. Father, uphold everyone in the kingdom so 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 900 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).

 T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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Email: cedarministryintl@yahoo.com,
cedarministryng@gmail.com
Website: www.cedarministry.org