As far back as I can remember, people have had difficulties understanding the two passages where Y’shua seems to be saying that some people are approaching the kingdom with violence: Mat 11:12-13 “And from the days of Yochanan the Immerser till now the reign of the heavens is violated, and the violent seize it. For all the prophets and the Torah prophesied till Yochanan.” Luk 16:16 The Torah and the prophets are until Yochanan. Since then the reign of Elohim is being announced, and everyone is doing violence upon it (KJV: “and every man presseth into it.”) I have heard the most amazing, and sometimes extremely far-fetched explanations of these words of the Messiah. Some people use these two verses to prove that the kingdom of Yahweh is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be bold and fearsome and pushy, even violent, in order to enter into the kingdom.
Others say these verses are a warning against laziness and spiritual death and slumber. People should wake up, smell the roses and become part of the crowd storming aggressively into the kingdom!
Then there are those who find an opportunity in these two passages to speak out against the Old Covenant Scriptures. The Torah and the prophets were only intended to be obeyed until the coming of Yochanan the Baptist. Since then the kingdom of Yahweh (without rules) was introduced and became so popular that everyone stormed forward violently to take hold of it.
Somehow this last explanation is a very accurate description of how many people look at the the Torah and the kingdom, and how many thousands have responded to it over the past 2000 years, even though it is not in the least what the Messiah had intended when He spoke these words.
So what DID the Messiah mean when He spoke these words? First of all, He was not announcing that the Torah was no longer valid, or that the kingdom of Yahweh was something that operated without the Torah. The only way that one can come to such a conclusion is to ignore the context of his words completely – especially the context of Luke 16. No less than three times in this chapter, Y’shua emphasizes that the Law and the Prophets or the Torah and the Prophets, or the Old Covenant Scriptures, are authoritative and binding and definitely not something that will pass away.
Luk 16:17 And it is easier for the heaven and the earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Torah to fall.
Luk 16:29 Avraham said to him, ‘They have Mosheh and the prophets, let them hear them.’
Luk 16:31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Mosheh and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead.’
There is an interesting variation in the Hebrew Shem Tov version of Mat 11:13 that is worth looking into. Instead of “all the prophets and the Torah prophesied till Yochanan” the Shem Tov version has the following: “all the prophets and the Torah prophesied about Yochanan”. The Hebrew word for “till” or “until” is “ad” and it looks very similar to the Hebrew word for “about” which is “el” (“ad” = and “el” = ). One can easily see how these two words may have been mistaken for each other. Even if Y’shua did mean to say that the Torah and the prophets prophesied until John the Baptist, it is clear that He was referring to the fact that they not only prophesied until his appearance; they also prophesied about his coming, because almost the entire Mat 11 is about John the Baptist and the question whether he is the one that was prophesied about. An example of this is Mat 11:10 “For this is he of whom it was written, ‘See, I send My messenger before Your face, who shall prepare Your way before You” and also Mat 11:14 “And if you wish to accept it, he is Eliyahu who was about to come”.
So then, who are the ones approaching the kingdom with violence? Is the Messiah trying to encourage people to approach the kingdom with violence (as many in the modern-day churches seem to believe) or does He speak against the practice of approaching the kingdom with violence? First of all, the Messiah never promoted violence, least of all when it comes to the way one is supposed to enter into the kingdom of Yahweh. In the very same chapter where Matthew speaks about approaching the kingdom with violence, he also reports these words of the Messiah: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I shall give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your beings. For My yoke is gentle and My burden is light” (Mat 11:28-30).
Both in Mat 11 and Luk 16 one can clearly see that the ones doing violence to the kingdom are the ones not listening and responding to the message concerning the kingdom. In Mat 11 Y’shua compares his generation to people hearing the joyful tune of a flute but not wanting to dance, or hearing the sad sound of a funeral song but not wanting to mourn. Because they are not prepared to listen to the true message of the kingdom, the people of his generation will be worse off than the people of Sedom and Amorrah (Sodom and Gomorrah) in the Day of Judgement. I can’t help but wondering what Y’shua would have said about the people of our generation today.
In Luk 16 it is the Pharisees who are doing violence to the kingdom of Yahweh. Why? Because they teach others and pretend to speak the language of the kingdom, while in reality they are driven by a love for money and other secret motives that are unknown to people, but not unknown to Yahweh the Almighty. Why is such an attitude violence to the kingdom? Because it is man’s way of forcing his own values and his own twisted ideas upon a kingdom that is not man’s design and not of this world. A kingdom that operates through the principles of love and respect and favour and openness and humility. A kingdom upheld and supported and foretold by the Torah and the Prophets, not a kingdom that came in the place of the Torah.
How do we approach the kingdom of Yahweh? In a bold, aggressive and violent way, always quick to force our own understanding upon Scriptures and apply our own rules to a kingdom that was never a human invention, right from the very beginning? The very act of reading into Luk 16 that the Torah has come to an end, is an act of violence. But before we start pointing fingers at others (those who reject the Torah), there are similar acts of violence that each one of us may be guilty of – even when we think we are happily on our way to the kingdom of Yahweh. Being rebellious against the clear guidelines of Torah, is an act of violence. Not listening to the words of Yahweh is an act of violence. It seems that the proud and the wealthy and the prosperous will find it more difficult to find their way to the kingdom. Those who are burdened and weak and discouraged and humiliated and persecuted may feel that they are missing out on life’s pleasures and this world’s attractiveness, but these are the one that are more suited for the kingdom of Yahweh. They have already been stripped of all the outward, superficial layers of showmanship en pretence. They have no desire to enter the kingdom with a self-centred, impressive show of violence. No, they are just looking to find rest for their beings and like people wounded and tired and lost in the desert, they are drawn to the One who is meek and humble in heart, whose yoke is gentle and whose burden is light. They are more than ready to allow Him to touch their lives and teach them the ways of the kingdom.