Matthew 11:12 (KJV)
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.“
The King James Translation says, ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence’, and the Amplified translation says, ‘The kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault’.
True Christians are anything but violent people, and the church and violence certainly do not go hand in hand. If anything, Christians are called to a lifestyle of love, goodness and kindness. So, when reading this verse, you have to ask, what does it mean, and how does it tie up to verses and chapters prior to this verse? What was Jesus talking about?
If we are going to make any sense of this verse, I think it should be broken up little by little, as well as look at things like some of the wording in the Greek language, and of course context is always vital to understanding the verse we are focusing on. So, let’s start!
JOHN THE BAPTIST’S WORLD:
Prior to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Jews were still under the Mosaic Law that had been handed down to them by God through Moses. In other words, the Jews were still under the Old Covenant of the Law. The only way the Jews could approach God was through Old Testament Law, rituals and sacrifices which had become a heavy weight for them to bear. This had caused their hearts to grow cold and far from God. When John the Baptist arrived on the scene, he introduced a new message, a message of repentance (a changing of one’s mind and turning from sin), and salvation through Jesus which would bring about a new way of living under a New Covenant of Grace and love. The message he preached, the Gospel, being the Good News of God and from God came with Holy Spirit power. It was the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the people which resulted in them amending their ways and putting their faith in the coming Messiah. It was a change from the ‘old to the new’ and for many, it was received with much joy. So, John the Baptist was the messenger sent ahead of Jesus preparing the way for Him with a message of ‘change’. However, this message of Good News also came under assault and was hugely rejected by the religious lot of the day.
Well, what do you know, the Gospel is still hugely rejected, and in recent times, the Word of God has been labeled as hate speech and considered as no longer fitting into our progressive world. It wasn’t too long ago when a well- known politician in the United States of America made mention in one of her campaign speeches that the time had come for us to make changes to the bible as it no longer fits into the 21st century. Can you believe that? No way, God’s Word stands yesterday, today and forever and will always be the perfect standard by which we can gauge our ways no matter what generation or century we are living in. The word of God is timeless! However we look at it this is a form of persecution and attack against God, His Word and His people. Persecution in one way or another has always existed through the generations for the church. So, I guess my question is this: In Matthew 11:12 was Jesus talking about persecution of the church at the hands of violent men who hate Christianity and all that it stands for?
If we consider the last part of this verse, ‘and the violent take it by force’, it really doesn’t make much sense to say that Jesus was talking about persecution. If you think about it, why would the ‘violent’ want to take a kingdom that they persecute and hate? What would they have to gain by doing so? If you think in terms of a terrorist organization on this earth today who hates Christianity, you would think they would want to completely destroy and obliterate it from the face of this earth. On the other hand, how would it even be possible for them, mere men, to take a kingdom that belongs to Almighty God Who is Omnipotent, all powerful, the One Who created the heavens and the earth and the fullness thereof, the One Who uses the earth as His footstool and the One Who is the creator of life? How will the created take the Creator’s kingdom? I tell you, they wouldn’t stand a chance, it would be completely impossible! Therefore, my conclusion then is that Jesus was talking about something very different to what it may appear to be at first glance.
So, let’s take another look by referring to another, but similar verse.
Luke 16: 16 (KJV)
“The Law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
In Matthew’s verse, he refers to the kingdom of heaven and Luke refers to the kingdom of God. I believe they are synonymous and are one and the same thing. However we look at it, it is a spiritual kingdom that is being referred to with all the blessings and advantages that flow forth from it for those who want it. Many love the idea of a heavenly kingdom with all its blessings and advantages, but not all are willing to accept God’s way as the grounds for entering it.
ONE WAY JESUS!
This verse in Luke could be explained in the following way: Many want in on the kingdom of heaven and desire to spend their eternity there, but they do not want to enter it through Jesus. They are bent in getting there their own way. They believe there are many roads leading to heaven and as long as they find their road, they are good to go. Others believe that as long as they are good moral people who do good works throughout their lives, then that will be enough to make it. Hence, Luke’s wording, ‘every man presseth into it.’ This is a prescription for a self-righteous person and lifestyle. They are technically making themselves their own god. They can ‘press’ into it all they want, but they will never enter the kingdom of heaven on their own terms.
It reminds me of my late mother-in law who was a beautiful person inside and out. She had heard the Gospel her whole life, but she would never accept Jesus as the only way to heaven. Whenever we tried to witness to her, she would immediately tell us of all the ‘works’ she was doing; the street children, the homeless and so on that she was feeding and helping. In her mind this was her ticket to heaven. She was an amazing woman who had a genuine heart for these plights and quite frankly I wish more Christians carried a heart for the weak, hungry and homeless the way she did, but sadly, she now lives out her eternity forever separated from God. She made her choice, but it was the wrong one!
There are countless verses that confirm for us that salvation comes through Christ and Him alone, and here are just a few of them:
John 14:6 (AMP)
“Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me.”
Acts 4: 11-12 (AMP)
“11- This (Jesus) is the Stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which has become the Head of the corner (the Cornerstone).
12- And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and which we must be saved.”
Romans 10: 9-10; 13 (KJV)
“9- That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10- For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
13- For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
In Luke’s verse, the word ‘presseth’, in the Greek language is the word ‘biazo’ and it is pronounced bee-ad-zo. It simply means to crowd oneself, to be pressed, suffer, to use force, to press, violence.
Again, many people are forcefully trying to press their way into the kingdom of heaven as long as it doesn’t involve Jesus. In preceding chapters specifically chapter thirteen, Jesus makes mention that many will knock at the door of heaven, but entrance will be denied on the grounds that He does not know them, and why? It is because they never accepted Him as the only door and the only way in.
On the other hand, coming back to Matthew’s verse, the words, ‘suffereth violence’, is the same Greek word we see in Luke’s verse, being ‘biazo’, but it is applied differently. I believe in Matthew’s case there are those who are pressing into God and the things of the kingdom, but through a relationship with Jesus. Very different!
FAME HAS A PRICE!
Have you ever watched an old video of a Beatles Concert? If you have, you will have noticed the mass hysteria of the fans watching with their arms outstretched towards these celebrities desperately trying to touch them. The crowds would be tightly pressed against each other; shoving, screaming and crying as they watched and listened to their idols perform. If you consider for a moment, the lives of celebrities who day in and day out are chased down by paparazzi and fans alike, they would always know where they are and what they would be doing. Imagine a life where you are always surrounded by great throngs of people pushing and pressing against you because they want to touch you and be close to you. I can’t imagine it, but it must be hard to live like that.
I had never really considered or thought for a minute that Jesus lived with a similar situation where people followed Him in great multitudes pressing and pushing just to be close to Him.
Luke 8: 41-42 (AMP)
“41 – And there came a man named Jairus, who had (for a long time) been a director of the synagogue; and falling at the feet of Jesus, he begged Him to come to his house,
42 – For he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As (Jesus) went, the people pressed together around Him (almost suffocating Him).”
Luke 8:45 (AMP)
“And Jesus said, who is it who touched Me? When all were denying it, Peter and those who were with Him said, Master, the multitudes surround You and press you on every side!”
Luke 12:1 (AMP)
“In the meanwhile, when so many thousands of the people had gathered that they were trampling on one another, Jesus commenced by saying,……………..”
Years back, I attended a conference in Birmingham, U.K, where Randy Clarke was ministering. This man of God moves very powerfully in the gift of the ‘word of knowledge’, which in turn directs him in how to pray into specific situations which largely concerns healing. Many people get healed in his services. Every time he finished ministering, he would walk to the back of the auditorium where the exit was. Throngs of people would rush at him shouting and screaming trying with all their power to touch him and grab hold of him. It was an eye opener for me, I had never seen anything like it, but I guess it was exactly what Jesus encountered all three and a half years of his ministry on this earth. I believe there were people at the conference who reacted this way because they were caught up with the manifest presence of God, perhaps some were desperate to touch him in hopes that they would be healed like the woman with the issue of blood, but I also believe that for many people there was an expectation on their part for a transference of anointing. I personally believe in the transference of anointing and we see it biblically with Elijah passing his anointing on to Elisha. In modern times we have seen it with people like Kathryn Kuhlman who passed hers on to Benny Hinn, as well as the late Reinhardt Bonnke to Daniel Kolenda. For those who do siphon off some of this anointing from men like Randy Clarke, they will only operate with it for a short time and then it will fade, and it is for exactly the reason we see in the last part of our verse in Matthew 11: 12,
‘………., and the violent take it by force.’
The words, ‘take it by force’, in the Greek language is the word ‘harpazo’, pronounced har-pad-zo. This means to seize, plunder, to take the spoils, to seize with great eagerness, greed or desperation.
In the Old Testament, we often see that when one kingdom conquered another, they would leave with the spoils of that nation. They took everything that was of great value. When the multitudes gathered around Jesus pushing and pressing against Him, so much so, that they would be trampling on one another, it was for this reason; to be close to Him, to touch Him, to receive healing, to witness the signs, wonders and miracles and to hear His every word that He spoke. There was a deep desperation, a hunger and a thirst, an inner greed for all they could get. They wanted Him and they were going to push and shove their way to get to Jesus no matter what it took, they were after Him and the spoils of the kingdom! Many are after the blessings and advantages of the kingdom, but not many are willing to fight for it. Anointed ministers like Randy Clarke, walk powerfully in their gifts because they went after the spoils of the kingdom, they pressed into Jesus day and night, week after week, month after month and year after year. I imagine that they never gave up until they got it! There was a hunger, an inner desperation and a holy violence for God and the things of God on the inside of them. Most Christians today lack that kind of zeal and would rather siphon whatever they can off someone who spent months and maybe years fighting for it.
Looking at context in preceding chapters to our verse in Matthew 11:12 builds our case further, for example Jesus said the following:
Matthew 7: 13-14 (AMP)
“13- Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering it.
14- But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straightened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it.”
Often one has to reach the end of themselves and a place of total desperation before realizing their need for a savior. It isn’t always easy for the flesh and that is why the gate is narrow and compressed, but choosing Jesus certainly straightens out one’s path and leads to a richer life even though it may bring much opposition, especially for those who press deeply into God and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In chapter eight, we see the story of the leper who was so desperate that he prostrated himself before Jesus and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You are able to cleanse me by curing me.” In the same chapter, the centurion sought out Jesus and on finding Him, the centurion earnestly begged Him to heal his paralyzed servant by speaking the word only.
In chapter nine, Jesus is found by a ruler who kneels down before Jesus and worships Him and then pleads for his daughter who has already died. Out of desperation he begs Jesus to lay hands on her for he knows she will be restored to life. The ruler came with a determined expectation. Wow!
Two blind men who were nearby followed Jesus and shouted loudly and repeatedly, “Have pity and mercy on us, Son of David!’ Jesus lays hands on their eyes and their sight was restored.
In this same chapter, we see the well-known account of the woman with the issue of the blood. This woman’s story again fits so well with the point of this message. She had suffered for twelve years with a constant bleeding condition. Under Old Testament Law, she would have been regarded as a “niddah”, a menstruating woman, and therefore according to Jewish custom, she was ceremonially unclean. Wherever she went she would have had to scream at the top of her lungs, “Unclean!” How terrible is that! It was done, so that those around her could walk away and keep at a distance from her, a bit like, should we say, Old Covenant version of social distancing. This poor woman had lacked the touch of another human being for twelve long years due to her bleeding condition. With no cure ever being successful from any doctor, she had reached the point of desperation. On seeing Jesus among the crowds, she felt she had no choice, but to get down on her hands and knees so not to be seen, and crawl between the legs of the crowds of people gathered so she could get to Jesus, even if it was just to touch the hem of his garment. She knew that He was her healing! Imagine how desperate you have to be to take the steps she did knowing how dangerous it was for her bleeding condition, not to mention how unlawful it was for her. To think she crawled on her bare knees on the hard gravel and stones, it probably not only hurt her, but it had to have scraped and cut her knees so that she probably bled right there. As she reached out and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe, she was instantly healed. How many of us would have been so bold, so courageous to have done what she did, but I believe it was the inner desperation, a holy violence on the inside of her coupled with faith that took hold of her healing!
Through chapter ten, Jesus encourages his followers and prepares them for a life taken through the narrow gate which is not easy, but yet the rewards will be great for faithfulness and obedience. Finally, we reach our verse in Matthew eleven and as He looks at the faces of the multitudes pressing Him on every side, I once again quote the words that He spoke, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
Jesus was looking back, from the leper to the centurion, from the ruler to the two blind men and the woman with the issue of the blood. What was the common denominator? Each of these people sought Jesus out with a passionate plea and a righteous desperation, a holy violence seizing the spoils of the kingdom and taking it by force. Each of them did not leave Jesus without getting what they came for!
DO YOU HAVE A BURDEN?
If I think of some of the great men and women of God that have gone before us with incredible healing and evangelistic ministries, such as Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Kuhlman, Aimee Semple McPherson and John. G Lake to name a few, as well as a man like the late Reinhardt Bonnke, who through his crusades saw millions upon millions of people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ in Africa, they all witnessed the paralyzed walk home, those who came blind, deaf or mute, left with their sight, hearing and speech restored and those who were sick, left healed and whole in Jesus Name. It is my belief that every one of these great men and women of God started out in their Christian journeys with a passion for God and His kingdom, a deep desperation and a burden on their hearts to see signs, wonders, miracles and healings. I believe that through their consecration to God as their way of life, is what gave rise to their encounters in the miraculous and made their ministries rise to fame throughout the world. Their humility, faith, a steadfast prayer life, revelation as well as their love and passion for God and the spoils of His kingdom kept them positioned as vessels through which the Holy Spirit could work the miraculous.
Do you know that many revivals and healing ministries were a result of man’s desperation during a time of a pandemic? Here we are living through one on this earth in 2021 and the church holds the key and the key is Jesus. I believe the church is the solution to this current pandemic, but we have become complacent, apathetic and way too passive! Like the world, we rely too much on doctors, medication and yes, even vaccines. I am not against these things, in fact I thank God for them, but what happens when a doctor cannot help us and no medication or vaccine works? I bet if these spiritual giants were with us today, they would send this pandemic packing every which way from Sunday. They would rebuke this pandemic and push this darkness back into the pit that it crawled out of. This truly is a time when we as the church can stand unified and lift our voices with a holy authority and an aggression and remove this thing from the face of the earth. You may ask, ‘but how do we pray for those who are sick and in isolation?’ It doesn’t matter whether they are sick with Coronavirus or any other ailment, you don’t need to go to them and lay hands on them, you just need to lift your voice in authority and declare words of healing over them wherever you are like the centurion who asked the same of Jesus and his servant was healed before he even reached back to his home. We just need an inner desperation and a hunger for God and a resolve to live a consecrated life to God.
The common thread which runs from the many people we read about in the bible to the great men and women of God of more recent times is that they all carried a holy greed and a holy violence for God. Each of them had a passion and a burden that they carried in their hearts and because of this, each and every one of them witnessed God do the miraculous through their lives and ministries.
Do you have a burden for something?
Do you desire to operate in the prophetic and speak words of encouragement over people, or perhaps you have a burden for souls like Reinhardt Bonnke, or you long to see people healed and released from their suffering? Do you have a burden for something? Perhaps you don’t have a burden in your heart right now, but you would love to have one, then you simply need to ask your heavenly Father and He will give to you shaken, pressed down and running over! If you seek Him, you will find Him when you seek Him with all of your heart. Knock and the doors you cannot open, He will open wide for you because how much more under this New Covenant of Grace with all the finished works of Jesus at our disposal will He give liberally to us if we ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking and knock and keep knocking! We receive not because we ask not!
In summation, I paraphrase Jesus’ words in Matthew’s verse, “The kingdom of heaven is being pressed from all sides, but only those who enter the narrow door with a hunger and desperation for God will boldly by force take hold of the spoils of God’s Kingdom and live in the supernatural!”
Church, it all starts with a deep hunger for God and a burden on your heart. Only a tiny flame on the inside of us is needed. Through our hunger and thirst for Him, that tiny flame will grow over time into a roaring fire flamed by the Holy Spirit. If we are desperate, hungry and aggressive enough to take hold of the finished works of Jesus which He purchased for us at the cross, we will see and enjoy the blessings and advantages of God’s heavenly kingdom, not only for us, but more for others, but mostly for His glory! It starts with a HOLY VIOLENCE!
I couldn’t think of a better way to bring this to an end, but with the words from the chorus to Will Reagan’s song, “Find My Own Flame.”
“I don’t want to ride on somebody else’s passion, I don’t want to find that I’m just dry bones.
I want to burn with unquenchable fire, deep down inside see it coming alive!
Help me find my own flame, help me find my own fire!
I want the real thing, I want Your burning desire!”
Until my next post,