Saturday, September 16, 2017

Weekend Reflection: "The Siege of Heaven" by R.C. Sproul

"Jesus once made a remark that has puzzled Bible readers for centuries. He declared: “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 NKJV).

What did Jesus mean? How does the kingdom suffer violence? On the surface, it seems to suggest that people can storm the gates of heaven and gain entrance by some sort of power play. It suggests that unworthy people can besiege the kingdom with military strength. But this interpretation does violence to everything the Bible teaches about the nature of God’s kingdom. God is not powerless to prevent the unworthy from sneaking into His presence. No man by sheer effort can gain access to the Father. The pagan can lay siege to the heavenly Jerusalem yet never provoke the surrender of Zion.

No, I think Jonathan Edwards was correct when he saw this verse as referring to the passion by which new believers pursue their quest for God’s kingdom. It describes the zeal by which those who are awakened by the Spirit press into the kingdom.

Where John the Baptist said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2), Jesus declared the very presence of the kingdom (Luke 17:21). With the appearance of Jesus, the King of the kingdom arrived. This sparked an unprecedented national repentance. Those who were awakened rushed to embrace Christ. The repentant sinner leaves no stone unturned to embrace his King. The zeal and the passion of the newly awakened are forceful. It is violent not in the sense of the use of physical arms but in its urgency and intensity.

It means a determined effort with one’s eyes fixed upon the goal. Indeed, there is an analogy drawn from warfare. When the gates of a walled city are opened, the victorious do not hesitate to push through. No soldier surrenders to lethargy or weariness at the moment of triumph.

Those who press into the kingdom sign up for the duration. We are not permitted the luxury of quitting. We cannot retire from sanctification. When we dedicate ourselves to God, we dedicate ourselves to lifelong service.

Our goal is not trivial. It is worth fighting for. It is worth fear and trembling. It is the high calling of Christ. Indeed, it is the highest calling. It is worth all the blood, all the sweat, all the tears. It is for Him that we rise up again after repeated failures. It is He who is our destiny.