Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Kingdom Forcefully Advancing

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (NIV)
Luke gives us a parallel reading:
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 NKJV)
Notice the words: “pressing,” “suffers violence” and “forcefully advancing.” The Greek verb for all three is biazo, which speaks of using force.In Matthew 11:12, the form of biazo used is biazetai and is either in the passive voice or the middle voice. The passive rendering is “suffers violence.” The middle voice is as the NIV has it, “forcefully advancing.”

Luke records the same saying as Matthew. In Luke's version, “The kingdom of God has been preached” relates to “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence” or “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing.” “Forcefully advancing” seems to be a better parallel to “has been preached” than does “suffers violence.” We do not normally think of the kingdom of God being preached as something that it suffers. Rather, we think of preaching of the kingdom as an advance.

In the latter part of Luke 16:16, “everyone is pressing into it” equates to “the violent take it by force,” or “forceful men lay hold of it.”

The Greek verb biazetai, in the middle voice, means to “crowd oneself into.” Someone compared it to an elevator that is full, but someone comes and crowds himself into it. That is exactly what the kingdom of heaven has been doing since the time of John the Baptist — it has been “crowding itself” (biazetai) into the world, forcefully advancing through the preaching of the gospel. In response, forceful men have been laying hold of it — they have been “pressing into it” or “crowding themselves” (biazetai) into it.

Some have supposed that the “violent men” are wicked men who seek to overturn the kingdom. Notice, though, that Jesus did not say that violent, forceful men try to take it by force, but that they do take it by force. But how is it possible that the kingdom of God can be overcome by wicked men, when Jesus said of His Church that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)? The answer is that it cannot. Remember also what John said, that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

No, the wicked do not and cannot take the kingdom of God by force. Rather, I believe that Matthew 11:12 is talking about men responding to the gospel of the kingdom by faith, pressing into the kingdom, just as the kingdom is pressing into the world. Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16 are talking about the same thing, not two different things.

The kingdom of God advances in many ways. By the preaching of the gospel; by healings and deliverances; by signs, wonders and miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit; even by prayer, as we pray the way Jesus taught us to pray: “Kingdom of God, keep on coming” (that is the sense of the Greek text in Matthew 6:10).

The kingdom of God is pressing itself into the world, and forceful men are taking hold of it.
  • It is like Jacob wrestling with the angel of the LORD: “I will not let You go until You bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
  • It is like the man who stumbled upon a rich treasure in a field, then went out and sold all that he had so he could buy that field and possess that treasure.
  • It is seeking first the kingdom of God and letting God take care of everything else.
  • It is asking until you receive, seeking until you find, and knocking until the door is opened unto you.
  • It is a bulldog tenacity.
In a word, it is the force of faith, believing what God has said. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). With faith, all things are possible (Mark 9:23).

Back in the early 90's, I had come to a place in my life where I realized that I needed to learn how to lay hold of the Word of God by faith concerning certain issues in my life. So I printed out a list of Scriptures, casting them in the first person, as confessions. Every day for about a month, I would pace up and down my hallway repeating them. Very quickly I got to where I would speak them very loudly, shouting them out as I claimed the promises of God for my own. I did that in order to shatter the mindset I had learned from the world, and the weak discipleship I had received which really knew nothing about how to stand on the promises of God. It was a violent and forceful thing, but I was soon able to break through those strongholds of doubt and unbelief that had seriously hindered me. Looking back, I can see a great difference in my life, my faith and my ability to receive from God.

Ever since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of God has been powerfully breaking into the world and tenacious men have been laying hold of it. When we are fully focused on God's kingdom, we will see it manifest in very powerful ways, but if we treat it casually, we will hardly recognize it.

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is forcefully advancing, and men lay hold of it by the force of faith.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.