You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Taking the Kingdom of Heaven by Force’ category.


For all those whose fangs and claws are extended after reading the heading, who are going to tell me that the kingdom of God is not taken by force, I agree with you.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s look at something Jesus said that we must puzzle our way through. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). 1 Let’s say from the outset that no one really knows what Jesus meant here, because we know that He maintained just the opposite. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). In addition, Jesus never used violence in any way to bring His kingdom. The only violent incident in His ministry (Although Jesus’ turning over tables in the Court of the Gentiles is worthy of consideration; however, no one was hurt physically.) is when Peter cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear, but Jesus told Peter to put his sword away and then healed the servant’s ear (Luke 22:49-51).

So what in the world—or what not of this world—is Jesus talking about in Matthew?

Let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s try to place ourselves just a bit in the time of John’s and Jesus’ ministry. There had been no prophetic word for at least four hundred years in Israel. During that very dry period, the religious establishment had ample opportunity to develop a powerful legalistic system and hierarchy. People were afraid of the Pharisees. To go up against them meant being kicked out of the synagogue and thus becoming an outcast. “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42–43).

But here comes John, out of the blue. Born to a couple who had been notified by an angel of his birth. This hadn’t happened since Samson, if memory serves. However, when John began his ministry, he was outside the religious system and hierarchy and not subject to their intimidating fear. He was not anywhere near the temple; instead out in the wilderness. Priestly garments? No. Prophet’s garb: goat’s hair. Baptizing people in the Jordan River and calling them to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He was fiery. When the Pharisees and Sadducees “came to his baptism,” John didn’t exactly welcome them with open arms: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matthew 3:7–9).

Yummy words for the religious leaders to chew on, I’m sure.

Not only was John fiery, he prophesied that the Anointed One, the Messiah, was coming; indeed, already there. Then that Anointed One showed up. Was He in the hierarchical religious system? No. He was baptized in the Jordan by the brazen wilderness baptizer, not in a mikva pool.

Two men, one of them God incarnate, showing up to minister outside that powerful legalistic and hierarchical religious system. No imprimatur from that system, only opposition. All of this was sovereignly from God. Two men who had spiritual power but no religious, hierarchical power. What these two faced was wall—a legalistic, powerful, we’re-always-right—wall.

How do you penetrate such a wall?


Now, when I write “violence,” I obviously don’t mean physical violence. However, from the point of view of the wall-breacher, it was. Hammering one’s mind and soul against a powerful, arrogant religious system. What does one do? In God’s wisdom, John and Jesus knew they could not reform it from within. It could not be reformed. It must end. And that end must come as an assault from the outside. John didn’t refer to this action as the breaching of a wall, but as the cutting down of a tree. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). Please note that it was going to be God Himself who would be cutting down trees and throwing them into the fire. Yet, John and Jesus’ part—as men, so ordained by the Lord—was to engage the battle. It required strength of will. Perseverance. Willingness to suffer. Willingness to be alone.

By human reckoning, they both failed. Both were murdered by powerful systems. However, they were both conquerors. Jesus said John was the greatest born among women. And as we know, Jesus, God incarnate who suffered for our sins, was raised from the dead and conquered sin, death, hell, the grave, and the devil, and was exalted above all things.

So, a question. Did our Savior and John do violence against a religious hierarchy which was replaced by others in the future? Have you ever found yourself in a position of rightly, scripturally, challenging a religious hierarchy and system? I’m not referring to things like styles of worship or monies spent. I am addressing issues clearly from Scripture.

I have. Without going into details, here’s the crux of the matter: They simply could not hear the truth of Scripture. Nevertheless, we must continue to hammer our minds and souls against powerful, arrogant religious systems.


1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles

Gif courtesy

For more about the books



Follow me on Twitter