Let’s quote that interesting, and often misinterpreted verse: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” There are several different interpretations of this verse but two are most popular. I will give those two views and we shall see that they are radically different.

1) In the FIRST VIEW the “kingdom of heaven” is taken to mean the “message of salvation” and in this strange view they teach that the “violent men” are “unsaved sinners” who must struggle to be saved because “the world, the flesh and the devil” are standing in the way of salvation. They often use Luke 16:16 to support this view, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is PRESSING INTO IT.” They teach then that while Satan is trying to “blind men’s eyes to the gospel by using the world to attract the flesh” (see 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4; Ephesians 2:2-3), men must “resist Satan and the world” forcefully in order to enter into the Kingdom of God. It is true that Satan does try to blind men’s eyes to the gospel to prevent them from being saved, but it is NOT true that men must use FORCE against Satan to believe the gospel and be saved, which implies that salvation involves “working for your salvation.” It is true that the sinner must DESIRE to be saved, but instead of “using force and working for salvation,” they must “repent of their sins before God and believe the gospel.” The apostle Paul preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). The sinner does not “struggle to be saved”; he takes his place as a lost sinner and believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior, the One who willingly took the sinner’s place in death and judgment on the cross as a payment for his sins and who rose victoriously over the grave (see John 3:14-16 and 1st Corinthians 15:1-4). This view would never have been adopted if they had seen that the “kingdom of heaven” is not the “gospel of salvation,” but a literal kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament and was being offered to the Jews in the message that John the Baptist preached.

2) In the SECOND VIEW the context in which this verse is found answers the question. If you read verses 1-11 you see that John the Baptist was in prison. Why was he in prison? He was in prison because the Pharisees and the Sadducees rejected John and his message of the kingdom that he preached to them (see Matthew 3:1-12) and later he was violently taken and imprisoned by King Herod (see Matthew 14:1-5). In other words, they “VIOLENTLY OPPOSED the message of the Kingdom of heaven that John preached” by rejecting him and allowing him to be imprisoned. They are “the violent men” who take the kingdom by force! They refused to humble themselves when John preached to them, for in his message he was pointing to Jesus Christ as their King (see John 1:19-34) and they refused to believe in Christ as their long-awaited Messiah.  They resorted to actual violence in order to establish a kingdom by their own power. So, when John preached the gospel of the kingdom, they used force in their rejection of the kingdom and were determined to seize the kingdom by their own means. This, I believe, is the true meaning, and it teaches us a valuable lesson. We should always take Scripture literally if we can instead of resorting to “spiritualizing” it and giving it a “symbolic meaning.”  (DO)  (521.1)