The Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence
By Al Stoner
The Lord’s Testimony of John and His Ministry. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mt. 11:1-15).
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Lk. 16:16). Men are now pressing into the kingdom of God with great urgency because of the increased clarity of God’s purpose, now that the Savior has come. Every man is pressing into it. Friends, family, and lesser things cannot be permitted to hinder one’s entrance into, or one’s advancement in, the kingdom of God.
What John the Baptist Said of Himself. “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me” (Jn 1:19-30).
What John Knew of His Own Ministry. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isa. 40:3-4). His was a ministry of preparing the way of the Lord. God would not send His Son into the world without the way being prepared. This can be said of His first coming, and also of His second coming.
“Behold, I will send My messenger [John the Baptist], and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant [the Lord Jesus Christ], whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness” (Mal. 3:1-3).
The Great and Dreadful Day of the LORD. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).
In the days leading up to, as well as during, Christ's ministry here in this world, there was talk among the people about Elijah (Elias) and his preparatory role withrespect to the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD, as declared by Malachi. In Zachariah's prophecy (Lk. 1:15-17) we see that John the Baptist was himself a partial fulfillment of the Malachi prophecy, but in connection with Christ's first coming. After John was put in prison, the Lord Jesus Christ said much the same regarding this notable Prophet, who prepared the way of the Lord, and made His paths straight.
“And his disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them” (Mt. 17:10-12).
The Spirit and Power of Elias. “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:15-17).
The expression “the spirit and power of Elias” seems to leave room for a double fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (chapter 4:5-6): one preceding the Lord’s first coming into the world, which has already occurred, and the second prior to Christ’s second coming at the end of the world.
The Mentionings of Elias. “And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias” (Lk. 9:30). “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (Lk. 9:54). “And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take Him down” (Mk. 15:36).
Some Considerations Regarding this “Violence”
This "violence" of which the Lord Jesus Christ spoke characterizes the time of the New Covenant. This is not a violence that in any way inflicts physical harm upon fellow men, but rather a holy determination that one's fellow men will not be permitted to stand in the way of one's taking hold for oneself of the glorious benefits being brought to men in the New Covenant.
Jesus said, "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Lk. 14:26). If Christ is not esteemed to be preeminent in men's hearts, He will not inwardly teach such ones. And this teaching is indispensable for entrance into the world to come. All who refuse to be taught by the Savior, in the sense in which He spoke here, shall be cast away.
"The kingdom of heaven suffereth (is taken by) violence." This violence will often be the source of wounded hearts and hurt feelings among kinsfold and friends, because the first love and allegiance is unquestionably being rendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. The risen and exalted Savior will accept nothing less than being preeminent in the heart's affection and devotion of those following Him. He is worthy of nothing less than this.
The "violence" of which the Savior spoke proceeds from a holy resolve that does not care what other people think about one's rendering the due benevolence to Christ. If friends and family are offended by one’s determination to follow Jesus, let them be offended! Perhaps the offense will cause some to repent, and recover themselves from the snare of the Devil.
This violence is a holy resolve and determination, if necessary, to willingly suffer the loss of all things, and to count them but dung, that one may win Christ. Because of the glorious benefits that God is lavishing upon men in the New Covenant, there can be no casualness about receiving them. Taking the kingdom by violence means that men unquestionably prefer the Lord Jesus Christ to friends and family, who are otherwise minded. Wherever men are casual with respect to their reception of the heavenly benefit, such casualness is evidence of unbelief and hardness of heart.
The “Violence” as Expressed in Luke’s Gospel
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Lk. 16:16). The law and the prophets were a time of veiled sayings, as well as types and shadows of heavenly things. In this time the Prophets “enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (I Pet. 1:10-12).
But now that the Savior has come, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, the purpose of God in salvation having been now brought into clear focus, men with honest and good hearts have begun to earnestly press in to lay hold of the heavenly benefit.
We Have Found Him! “And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he (John the Baptist) saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” (Jn. 1:36-37). “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (Jn. 1:40-41). “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”, cried Philip to Nathanael.
“And He (Jesus) saith unto them (Peter and Andrew), Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him” (Mt. 4:19-20). “And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him” (Mt. 4:21-22).
Have you found Him?