“‘From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force’” (Matthew 11:12).
“The kingdom of heaven” refers to God’s general rule and represents His purpose, message, commands, and activities regarding humanity. This great concept was associated in some fashion with violence since John the Baptist began preaching. Wherever he went, his call for repentance and entrance into the kingdom generated strong and eventually violent opposition.
The verb translated “suffers violence” carries both negative and positive connotations. First is the idea of the kingdom being treated violently by its foes—by those outside it, like the Jewish leaders. They vociferously rejected its spiritual dimension, and so its earthly dimension could not begin for some time.
Second, there is a more proactive and primary meaning to the phrase “suffers violence”—which sees the kingdom as vigorously pressing forward and people forcefully entering it. The angel’s prediction before John’s birth illustrates this positive element (see Luke 1:16–17). Jesus was already teaching about the narrow gate and the narrow way (Matt. 7:13–14), declaring that kingdom citizenship requires self-denial and cross bearing (16:24; cf. 10:38).
To be a Christian today means swimming against the world’s flow, going against its grain, because its satanic system is extremely powerful. Those who truly enter God’s kingdom do so through faith and with great effort—effort that is not their own, but from the sovereign, converting power of the Holy Spirit.
You’re certainly familiar with the kingdom of God arousing violent opposition from without. But have you ever thought of it flexing its strength to bring you into its borders? How has the kingdom met you in brute force, causing “violence” to your former manner of living?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.