What did Jesus mean when He said, “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”?
Matthew 11:11-15: "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. V.12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”
Since John came on the scene he announced the kingdom and how one was to enter, through repentance and belief in Christ (Mt.3:11-12) Mt. 3:2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
This is one of those Scriptures that has various interpretations. So how do we determine its meaning? The Pharisees who were in control wanted to keep control. When John came on the scene we find the religious leaders came against his message, they had the same resistance to Jesus. The kingdom of heaven suffered violence from those who wanted to force their way in instead of the way announced.
John is called the greater because he was the transition to turning the work over to the Messiah (Jn.3:30) and then Jesus states that those who are least are even greater than he in the kingdom. This would certainly anger the religious leaders who rejected John’s message and thought of themselves as the most important asset to God.
The Old Testament is divided into three parts the law the prophets and the writings. Here, Jesus uses two of the portions to make a point- The prophets and the law pointed to the Messiah. So by rejecting John's message they rejected the witness of the Scriptures (Jn.5:39). The prophets spoke of who he is and what He would do. The law is about how he lived and obeyed the Father, keeping it perfectly. Israel would see what a man would be like that lived in perfect obedience to the law and God.
John is the last of the Old Testament prophets. He challenged the status quo of the religious leaders of his day. The Pharisees were holding the people captive by their own made up laws and reacted to John’s message, instead of obeying him they tried to hold their positions. John said to all: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"(Matthew 3:20)
The kingdom suffered violence from the religious leaders who did not want to relinquish their control to the message of John that the Messiah was coming. Matthew 3:7: “when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Violence is not how one enters the kingdom but with humility and meekness as they humble themselves as sinners and repent. But the religious leaders did not repent from John's preaching to prepare themselves for the one who was to come (Jn.1:6-8; Luke 7:28-30.)
Matt 23:13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
Matt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said my kingdom is not of this earth nor do my followers fight for it. Jesus said one must become as a child, the meek and the humble gain entrance. The kingdom comes with Christ’s physical second coming to earth, then He will establish it and the church will co-rule and co-reign under Him. There are those instead want to rule and reign now.