God, help us to understand this passage and more about Your kingdom!
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”
At first I thought this meant that Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for forcing their way into the kingdom—forcing their greedy ways into the gospel. I wrote a nice little paragraph about it. But then I got to a similar scripture to write about later in the book, and as I was researching it, I found that Bible scholars think “forcing his way into it” means something very different. Here’s that verse, which I will use here instead.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
When I went to write about that verse, I knew that my vague Star Wars-inspired picture of men storming the kingdom of heaven needed a little help, and that’s when I found out that these verses are some of the few in the Bible that vary greatly between translations.
Luke 16:16 in its various forms says that men are forcing their way into the kingdom, that men should enter it, or that everyone entering it is under attack.
Spurgeon says of Matthew 11:12 that we should have a “holy violence,” a desperation to push into the kingdom, and Abram Yehoshua, a man I’d never heard of but found at seedofabraham.net, says that the traditional interpretation of the “violent take of the kingdom by force” is out of line with the Lord’s character. Rather, he thinks it speaks of His flock, us, going through the opening that Jesus made for us into heaven itself, by His crucifixion and resurrection. As we seek to follow Him, the opening expands as we all crowd to enter heaven, just as a shepherd makes a small opening in a fence for himself to go out of the fold, and calling the sheep by name, the sheep go through the opening and enlarge it, as pictured in Micah 2:12-13 concerning the King of Israel and His flock.
And so all I can tell you about these verses is that no reputable commentaries mention light sabers, death stars, or x-wing fighters. But hey, you never know.
What will be your kingdom statement with which to replace your worry thoughts today?
*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation. Some of Abram Yehoshua’s ideas are direct quotes from him, used with his permission.