April 09, 2020 – Thursday
Matthew 11:12 NIV
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.
Matthew 11:12 NKJV
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
Neither of the versions of this verse above made much sense to me and I probably read over a dozen pages of commentary on the verse. Very little was satisfactory. However, a few other versions helped me see a solution to how to look at and begin to understand this verse. Out of 50 some different versions I found seven that helped pointed me in the right direction. Let me show you a few of them.
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing forcefully and forceful people are seizing it. EHV (Evangelical Heritage Version) and GW (GOD’s WORD Translation)
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has forcefully advanced, and the strong take it by force. MEV (Modern English Version)
From the time of John the Baptizer until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful people have been seizing it. NOG (Name of God)
Notice all four have the kingdom of heaven advancing forcefully or forcefully advancing, very similar and quite different from the NIV and NKJV among many others. Plus they make sense. Because of Jesus and His teaching since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing and advancing forcefully against all the traditions of the Pharisees and in the midst of the Roman occupation of Israel as a force that could not, would not be stopped. Not even by the crucifixion and death of Jesus for He rose on the third day – what we celebrate all the time and especially this Sunday, Resurrection Sunday.
But what of the end of this verse where Jesus tells us forceful people are seizing it or the strong take it by force or forceful people have been seizing it? What are they seizing or taking by force? The answer is the kingdom of heaven. But what does that mean, how do they go about doing that? To make sense of it, I looked up the Greek word translated as force at the end of the NKJV and found in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon it can mean to claim for oneself eagerly. Further it is a derivative of another Greek word also found in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon with the meaning to take for oneself, to choose, prefer.
Now it really makes sense. Jesus is advancing the kingdom of heaven forcefully and those who see it and see the truth in what Jesus is teaching and showing them, they are seizing upon the truth and the reality of the kingdom of heaven and they are not about to let go – no matter what. They are going to hold on to Jesus’ promise of forgiveness of sin and eternal life with a fierceness they may never had experienced before in their lives.
From a Bible study in Luke 16 found verse 16 which is saying the same thing, only more directly in language that is more natural to our ears, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it NIV. The only real difference is Luke calls the kingdom of heaven the kingdom of God, but they are in reality one and the same.
The great theologian Spurgeon points that this is not a description of everyone and he explains why when he makes the following observations on the conclusion of this verse (emphasis added): “Frequently complaints are made and surprise expressed by individuals who have never found a blessing rest upon anything they have attempted to do in the service of God. ‘I have been a Sunday-school teacher for years,’ says one, ‘and I have never seen any of my girls or boys converted.’ No, and the reason most likely is you have never been violent about it; you have never been compelled by the Divine Spirit to make up your mind that converted they should be, and no stone should be left unturned until they were. You have never been brought by the Spirit to such a passion, that you have said, ‘I cannot live unless God bless me. I cannot exist unless I see some of these children saved.’ Then, falling on your knees in agony of prayer, and putting forth afterwards your trust with the same intensity towards heaven, you would never have been disappointed, ‘for the violent take it by force.’”
Choose to follow Jesus no matter what, look for the truth in the bible and seize it! Take time to read and reread Spurgeon’s points. Jesus wants us to choose Him and never ever let go for He has risen and awaits His followers.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton