From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.
The phrase, “the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,” is referring to those in the religious world at the time of Christ who used their positions of authority to bully their way into control of the religious institutions, the Jewish temple with its wealth, prestige and status as a political mouthpiece and control in society.
The term here spoken by Jesus, “subject to violence” means literally to overpower by rushing forcefully into. Jesus is referring to individuals that use religion for self-interests. Jesus is making this statement showing us that there are those who by violence and other means, force their way into the kingdom for their own interests not God’s.
As we study God’s Word we discover that the Law was being preached during the time of John; from then to the time Jesus makes this statement about violent men taking the kingdom of God by force is specifically said to apply to the gospel. The main point Jesus makes in this context is that from the days of John the Baptist until and including that very moment the kingdom of God suffered “violence.”
Just as it was in the days of John the Baptist it is now. There are many today there are religious imposters “forcing” their own way on to the innocent. Pastors, ministers, televangelists, false teachers, and false prophets use the media, the radio, TV, internet and church pulpits to acquire wealth and power for themselves. Instead of fulfilling the calling of God and being a shepherd that feeds God’s sheep with the Word of God and the message of the Gospel, their very “purpose,” as paid ministers is done to line their own pockets with money given by the innocent believers believing they are giving to God.
It is now as it was in the days of John the Baptist, there are smug and self-righteous leaders who fail to recognize the day of their visitation and who exercise “violence” towards the kingdom of God (i.e. believers proclaiming the truth). The scriptures reveal to us that when John the Baptist first appeared for public ministry, he did not dress in fine clothes or speak with tricky slick words to tickle the ears of his listeners. John was a man who had lived in the wilderness, a rough-looking character that came out from the Judean wilderness declaring that everyone, everywhere should repent and be baptized withwater for repentance.
He proclaimed of and prepared the way for Jesus, preaching that Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John’s message stirred up and angered the hypocritical religious men of his day, the Pharisees and Sadducees. These sects had controlled the minds and money of the masses of Jews for many years under the sanction of Rome and were strengthened politically by the recent appointment of Herod, who believed he was a Jew, and the true ruler of the Jews.
John the Baptist began to challenge the influence and status of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and of Herod. Herod was told by John the Baptist to repent for his adultery with his brother’s wife, which caused him to land in jail. After John was imprisoned, Herod’s wife demanded that Herod cut off his head and have it publicly displayed on a platter. This scene was born out in the words of Jesus, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence…”
The religious men of the day “forced” their way into the ministry of John the Baptist, but he would have none of their antics. When John publicly rebuked Herod for his adulterous affair, the king’s violent reaction was to have John arrested, taken by “force” and imprisoned.
Matthew 11:12 could be translated “men acting as enforcers take them by force.” This is EXACTLY what transpired in the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. They were violently taken by force. John was seized and thrown into jail, and beheaded. Jesus was seized in the garden of Gethsemane, beaten, falsely tried and crucified.
In the Body of Christ today, there are many ministers and pastors that are guilty of lording it over the flock. They rule the flock with lies, deception, and domination. They attempt to control the minds and thoughts of their church members by not allowing any discussion or disagreement with their teaching. They falsely accuse those who have any disagreements with them of attacking God’s anointed. In this way these self-made, so-called religious despots cause “violence” to the kingdom of God, which consists of believers within the Body of Christ. With force these violators of the Gospel, seize upon the minds, paychecks, savings and wallets of the members of congregations, the Body of Christ and the sheep in His fold.
These self-proclaimed, “anointed of God” abuse their position, power and authority to oppress and take advantage of God’s people for their own purpose and gain. Preachers should preach the truth of God’s Word so that people will know how beautiful, how sweet, how glorious, how important the Word of God is, so they will love the Lord, keep the Word, so that through all this they may know and hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are those who minister to the world and to believers to line their own pockets, and preach of their own concoctions and not of Christ and Him crucified.
Jesus gave an extensive discussion of this in Matthew 7:15. There He warned about false prophets – wolves in sheep’ clothing. He told us that you know a tree by its fruit. If that tree is bearing apples, don’t try to tell me it’s a grape-vine, it’s an apple tree. So He goes on to say in verse 22, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord…”, “and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
God tells us in Ezekiel the 34th chapter, ‘God says doom to you false teachers, preachers, and shepards, feeding your own mouths! You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don’t feed my sheep. You don’t build up the weak ones, don’t heal the sick, don’t doctor the injured, don’t go after the strays, and don’t look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they’re scattered every which way because there was no shepherd.
But know that God watches over His people in spite of these despots declaring also in Ez. 34, I’m coming down on the shepherds and taking my sheep back. No more shepherds who just feed themselves! I’ll rescue my sheep from their greed. God, the Master, says, from now on, I myself am the shepherd. I’m going looking for them. I’m going after my sheep. I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms. I’ll bring them back from foreign places, gather them from foreign countries, and bring them back to their home country. I’ll feed them on the mountains, along the streams, among their own people. I’ll lead them into lush pasture so they can roam the mountain pastures, graze at leisure, and feed in the rich pastures on the mountains. And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I’ll go after the lost, I’ll collect the strays, I’ll doctor the injured, I’ll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.
This is the promise of God that has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and woe be to those who would betray the Son of God for their own purpose and design.