If your name was drawn for a million-dollar lottery win, would casually dismiss it as non-important? No, of course not! You (and every other person on the earth) would be astonished and eager to collect the windfall. Now, throw into this pretend scenario a couple of impostors trying to claim the prize, which belongs to you, as their own. Now what would your reaction be?
“Umm… I don’t think so!”
You wouldn’t stand idly by while another took what belonged to you! But this is what people do everyday with the kingdom of heaven.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). At first, it’s difficult to fully understand what He meant. But upon studying it a bit more carefully, we discover He used a couple of poetic phrases to help us understand the war and ultimately, the prize, of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said, “The violent take it by force.” This phrase automatically causes us to picture someone angry and out-of-control forcefully taking something back that possibly belonged to them. But it actually means to claim for oneself eagerly. It is a picture very similar to that of a lottery winner in that it describes a person who has been identified as the title-holder of a great prize. This person isn’t sheepish about their win–on the contrary, they are exuberant about it and rush to claim the spoils.
In another account, Jesus said, “The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16). Same idea. Except here, Jesus qualifies everyone as eager.
But looking again at our original text, we can’t overlook what Jesus said first. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence.” This phrase also brings to mind the idea of a war-torn area. But in actuality, the term suffers violence means “applies force.” Jesus was stating, “The kingdom of heaven [applies force], and the [eager make claim on it for themselves; seizing it as a great prize].”
Jesus described our life in Christ and all the promises of God as a a great treasure. But He also indicated there was opposition. Satan doesn’t want you to have what heaven offers. He goes to great lengths to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) your claim. In fact, one of his first acts of violence against us is when the Word of God is preached. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart…” (Matthew 13:19). The word snatch is defined exactly the same as our text: the violent take it by force. In other words, the devil is eager to make his claim too.
We could say he also shows up to the lottery with no other purpose than to snatch the winning ticket right out of your hand. And sadly, many people have fallen for his deception. BUT the eager make claim on it for themselves, rebuking the enemy, and pressing in to lay hold of God’s promises!
So don’t wait for the lottery. You have a greater prize and heaven is more than happy to help you seize it!