In this sermon we are going to see what is the meaning of the violent take it by force in the bible.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.Mathew 11:12
Over the years, Christians have tried to interpret and understand this passage in its literal form. But before we try to uncover the hidden truth in it; let us quickly go to the dictionary to see the definition of the term ‘violence’.
Definition of violent in the dictionary.
The dictionary defines violence as:
- Extreme force.
- Action intended to cause destruction, pain or suffering.
- Widespread fighting.
- (Figuratively) injustice, wrong.
Based on these definitions; so many people have therefore taken this violent to mean a kind of strife or war that has been prevalent in Christendom.
It must have been this passage that gave rise to the ‘Spanish inquisition’, ‘Crusaders’ etc; where Christians took it upon themselves to force people into the faith by means of torture and death.
Today, this passage have given rise to internal strife among so many Christians, who would not accept to let any little quarrel or misunderstandings go; without fighting for their right.
In short, this passage has caused so many believers to apply violent in diverse ways; in the treatment of both their fellow believers and unbelievers.
The meaning of violent take it by force in the bible.
Since this portion is taken from the book of Mathew which is one of the synoptic gospels. And knowing that it is erroneous to study the synoptic gospels i.e. Mathew, Mark and Luke independently, because of their similarities and differences; let us now go to the book of Luke; where we have the only known version of this same text to see how it relay its own account.
“The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.Luke 16:16.
From the above biblical passage, violent take it by force in the bible means that when people hear the word of God; they will have to fight with an adversary the scripture shows us in 1 Peter 5:8 that he ‘walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour’.
And the worst of all is that this adversary is not flesh and blood , whom we can see with our naked eyes and physically fight against.
But rather, as the scripture further reveals; they are invisible powers that operates in higher spiritual planes:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12
Therefore, what this adversary does is to invisibly fight against anyone who hears the gospel message; so that he won’t be able to accept it and be saved.
So, anyone who wants to be saved must struggle to hear and most importantly practice the gospel message.
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.2 Corinthians 4:3-4
In Revelation 12:7-17, the scripture analysez the war that broke out in heaven and caused the eviction of the Christian adversary; Lucifer and his cohorts.
Let me at this point give an alegorical interpretation of how this violence takes place in the human heart; so that you can have a better idea of how to rise up and take this kingdom by force.
Allegorical interpretaion of Revelation 12:7-17
And war broke out in heaven; – This heaven where the war broke out is the heart of a sinner who is set for repentance.
Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; – these are the preachers and the gospel message which is being preached to the sinner.
And the dragon and his angels fought, – Satan and all his demonic agents who cause the sinner to indulge in different kinds of sin, example Succubus and Incubus that causes sexual immoralities.
But they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the dragon was cast out, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. – This phrase indicates that the sinner has believed the gospel message and let’s goes of all his sins.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ has come. – Because the sinner has repented, God has sent forth His Holy Spirit and power to strengthen him.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death – The blood of the lamb is baptism, and the word of their testimony represents the message of the cross i.e; the sinner believes and confesses that truly Jesus Christ was crucified and God raised Him from the dead, and he is therefore ready to pick up his cross and follow in His footsteps.
(N/B Satan hates it most when people are ready to forsake the broad way i.e. living in wealth, happiness and joy, where too many go into it; and follow the narrow way i.e. trials, temptations and pains, where only a few can find.)
Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! – The heart and organs of the repented sinner.
Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” – The earth are the unbelieving believers i.e. those who call themselves Christians but refuse to practice the words of the Master; they are also called church goers, and Jesus Himself called them hypocrites. And the sea is those who have already been swallowed up in their sinful ways i.e. the die-hard sinners.
”Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. – The woman is the church that will nurture the repented sinner i.e. the denomination he will worship with. And the male child is the repented sinner.
But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. – This is an indication that the church will be saved amidst all odds.
So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. – This water that causes flood is the false teachers and prophets sent by the devil to destroy the church with all their lying signs, wonders and inverting of the scriptures.
But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. – It is only the unbelieving believers that will be enticed to follow the deceits of the false prophets, while the practicing Christians will still maintain their salvation and in so doing save the church.
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. – Since the devil cannot destroy the particular church the repented sinner belongs, he now goes over to fight with the other denominations that are practicing the true teachings of Christ.
What is the law which were until John the baptist?
From the above passage, the understanding we can gather about the law and the prophets; which were until John is that, people were readily and physically punished, once they broke the laws; that were given to them from God through the prophets.
For instance in Leviticus 20:16 we can see the death sentence placed on a woman who sleeps with an animal:
‘If a woman approaches any beast and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.
So because of this kind of punishments, people were very careful not to break the law; so that they would not die the physical death, or suffer whatever punishment that goes with the law they have broken.
And for that reason the law was kind of like forcing the people to obey it; instead of the people forcing themselves to obey it.
In other words, the laws and prophets were imposing on people what to do and if they refused to do it they would instantly pay the price.
But when John, who preceded the Messiah came; the method applied by the laws and prophets had to change because John in his preaching did not tell people about what will physically happen to them if they refuse to obey the law.
Rather he called on them to turn away from their sins and be baptized; and God will forgive their sins as we can see in Luke 3:3.
And in verse 7 we can see how people responded to John’s message by coming out; of their own freewill, to be baptized by him.
How Jesus teachings correspond with that of John the Baptist.
And when the Messiah Himself, finally appeared on the scene, His own laws and teachings corresponded with that of John.
His message was also urging people to repent of their sins for the kingdom of God is at hand; and these messages, same as John’s, had no physical punishments attached to them as we can all bear witness today.
Thus, a Christian lady today, is free to go ahead and break the law outlined above; because she knows that even if she is caught and reported she won’t be killed as it was in the Law of Moses.
The highest thing the church would do is suspend or ex-communicate her; and she can from there decide to leave the particular church and go somewhere to join another denomination; of which many are even seeking for more members.
Therefore because of this fact, the gospel of Christ becomes an option i.e; one can chose to believe it or not.
The invitation to Christianity is free.
To understand this point better, let’s go to the book of revelation; and see how Jesus invites people to His religion.
And the Spirit and the bride say, “come!” let him who hears say, “come!” let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires. Let him take the water of life freely.Revelation 22:17
As we can see, the invitation to Christendom is a free and fair thing. You don’t have to pay any sum in order to be a member.
Nobody has to force you to accept the teachings and faith of Christendom.
And even when you accept it, no one will force you to adhere to or obey the laws and teachings of the Master; which no physical punishments are attached to as we said before.
In the light of this understanding, Christianity therefore should be seen as a free religion; where people must fight their way by themselves to enter.
And after entering; they must also fight hard to obey the laws and teachings handed down by the Master.
In other words, the kingdom of God becomes a place where people should be struggling and pressing their way to enter.
Not a place where they should sluggishly wait on the Law of Moses to be following them about with guns and swords; reminding them that if they ever misbehave their life comes to an end.
An example from transportation scheme in cities.
If you’ve ever lived in a big city where there is free transportation scheme; you should know what always happens whenever the free bus appears.
Before the bus even pulls to a halt, people have already began to press their way into it.
And the bus doesn’t even need to stop again because before it tries to do so people have already occupied every sitting and standing positions.
You can now compare the free bus to the gospel being preached; and therein have a better understanding of how people should react every time they hear it.
But it’s sad that so many people, both unbelievers and believers; have yielded to the false teacher’s misinterpretation of Paul’s concept of grace to arrive at the conclusion that salvation is a free gift from God which human beings ought to fold their arms and receive.
Two facts about the Christian laws.
But then there is a very important point to note about the law in Christendom; because it is not as if people who disobey them will go unpunished, but rather the reality is found in these two facts:
- Unlike the Jewish law which did not give people an opportunity to repent i.e. once caught they were quickly judged and condemned. The Christian law is centered on mercy and grace, whereby, if a culprit repents and stops to commit any particular sin he or she is forgiven and restored. For instance, if the Christian lady above, who slept with an animal; goes to another denomination where she is made to repent and stop practicing that sin; she will finally be forgiven. And thus escape the greatest punishment for that sin which will be given by God Himself for all eternity as we would see in the next point.
- In the Jewish law, human beings – who will always remain imperfect – were the ones who witnessed, judged; and condemned fellow human beings like themselves, and at such partiality and injustice were very rampant. For instance, the Scribes and Pharisees, who were the custodians of the law; refused to practice the law they were judging and condemning people for, as well as falsely interpreted certain laws to favor themselves as Jesus Himself revealed to us in Mathew chapter 23.
Therefore, in the Christian law; Jesus Himself will preside both as the witness and the judge who condemns.
And this will happen once and for all on the final Day of Judgment as He revealed to us in Mathew 25:31-46.
John, who ushered in this new law; also revealed to the Jews in Luke 3:7-9, that they should turn away from their sins and stop claiming Abraham as their ancestor.
Because God’s axe is set to cut down the trees that does not bear fruit from the root; which figuratively points to the Jews, who thought they are the seeds of Abraham and God’s chosen race; and as such will obtain salvation even without struggling for it.
Mystery of the violent takes it by force.
Therefore, the mystery of the violent takes it by force in this passage is that people must rise up and believe the gospel message, If they want to attain salvation.
For the grace that saves a sinner will not come and take him by force rather it is the sinner that must rise up and take it by violence, because:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith…(Ephesians 2:8),
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(Romans 10:17),
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.(James 1:22).
Beloved, if the truth has been severally preached to you and you keep on postponing your repentance; saying that when the time is right God will come down and save you. I want you to remember just one thing: no one knows the day or time he is going to die.
Death comes like a thief in the night.
So better make good use of the opportunity you have while living, for the scripture says:
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.Hebrews 9:27.
Also, if you are blessed with the knowledge of the scriptures, you will get the understanding that; the predominant area where violence is so much needed in order to take the kingdom of God is in the area of wealth, by this I mean abundant riches or pasture.
And this is because, when life seems so favorable to anyone; pride is bound to set in in order to cause such an individual to forget totally about God:
When they had pasture, they were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore they forgot me.Hosea 13:6
It is an undeniable fact that once any Christian, who is not well grounded in the knowledge of God’s word; begins a romance with abundant riches or is already living in it; there is no way he will be able to carry the cross, which symbolizes suffering and follow Jesus.
Consider the case of the rich young man in Mathew 19:16-22. for when Jesus told him to give up his wealth and follow Him, “he went away sorrowfully; for he had great possessions”.
Now mark the phrase: ‘great possessions’.
For if the rich young man had a limited wealth; it would have been easy for him to give it up and follow Christ.
And this then is where I want us to be fed with the understanding that, the scripture does not warn against riches.
But it warns against the abundance of it, for poverty itself is also a means by which a human being might deny or put God to an open shame.
That is why the proverbial preacher prayed:
Two things I request of you (deprive me not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of My God.Proverbs 30:7-9
Violent is in the human heart.
Now the significance of how one can apply violent to take the kingdom of God by force in this area is in the occasion when Jesus went into the temple, and upon finding out that the worshippers there had turned God’s house into the modern day wall street, He scattered everything and drove those people away.
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “it is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.”Mathew 21:12-13
And I hope you already have the understanding that it the temple that Jesus performed the above violence was not the physical house but rather the human body which houses the heart from whence every worldly thoughts and desires spring from.
You can make this confirmation from the incidence when He told His disciples about destroying the same temple; and building it in the three days. He later revealed to them that He was referring to the temple of His body.
Jesus answered and said to them, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “it has taken forty six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” but He was speaking of the temple of His body.John 2:19-21
Thus, whoever wants to use violence and take over God’s kingdom must rise up and fight with the desires for worldly riches, splendor, pleasures etc. that burns like a wildfire in the human heart. For as our Lord Jesus would conclude this sermon for us:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.Mathew 6:24
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