What is meant by this phrase, ‘the violent taking it by force’?

Question:        Matthew 11:12 refers to the kingdom of heaven suffering violence and the violent taking it by force. What exactly does this verse mean?


Answer:          The best way to understand this verse is to refer to Luke 16:16.  Both verses are talking about the same thing.  The law and the prophets administered or taught the gospel before John the Baptist.  After the era of the law and prophets, John the Baptist began to preach the gospel; Luke 16:16, “the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached…..”  Mt. 11:12, continues from the point that Luke 16:16 ended.  This is when John the Baptist began to preach the gospel.

            One phrase we have to address is: the kingdom of heaven.  The meaning of a kingdom is a country (group of people) with common values and has a king as their head.  In this case the country (kingdom) is Israel or the Jews and the king is God, because God is king of heaven.

            The phrase suffereth violence, in the Greek, means to crowd oneself.  Scripture confirms that the people gathered or crowded themselves around John the Baptist; Mt. 3:1-5, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea….. saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand….. then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan…..and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”

            When scripture records the violent take it by force; it means, the crowd take it by force.  There is something else we have to consider.  The Greek word used for take and force is the exact same word.  That word is Strong’s #726, and it means to seize or catch.  It is a derivative of Strong’s #138, and it means to take for oneself, to prefer, or to choose

            Let’s read the verse again substituting the meanings of these words. 


Mt 11:12

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven (Jewish people) suffereth violence (crowded around, gathered), and the violent (crowd) take (seize, accept) it (gospel preached by John) by force (preference or choice).


            John the Baptist was teaching a different message from the message originally taught by the law (Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees) and the prophets.  The people readily accepted this message; so they gathered around John to hear more of his message, and they chose to repent, and to be baptized.