On Saturday we celebrate Independence Day in America. On July 4, 1776 America declared its independence from Great Britain beginning a war that ultimately led to victory and the creation of the United States of America. To be a free country meant violent and forceful actions were undertaken to assure a military victory.

Matthew 11:12 says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it.” (NIV) Is the Bible saying violent, forceful action is necessary to advance God’s kingdom?

This verse is translated differently in other translations of the Bible. In the CEV it says, “From the time of John the Baptist until now, violent people have been trying to take over the kingdom of heaven by force.” These two translations result in two very different meanings.

It is vital to understand why there is a difference so we can know how to properly interpret this verse. The differences in translation are because the Greek verb biazetai can be translated in either the passive or middle voice.

Translated in the passive voice it means to “suffer violence,” translated in the middle voice it means “to overpower by force.” One way to determine which use is appropriate is to see how the same word is used elsewhere in the Bible. The only other place this word is found is in Luke 16:16 where it is translated in the middle voice. It is also translated in the middle voice in secular Greek.

God’s kingdom is the rule of God that has invaded the kingdom of Satan. God’s kingdom has been powering forward from the days of Jesus until today. Evidence of God’s kingdom advancing is when people make Jesus the king (leader) of their lives. This happens as forceful men and women proclaim the gospel message and people respond.

There is a clear play on words by Jesus. The force by which the kingdom of God is advancing is by the forceful men who lay hold of it. Of course, this force is spiritual not physical in nature. The word for lay hold means “to seize or to take.” Forceful men advance God’s kingdom by taking action.

Forceful men and women understand they are responsible to forcefully advance God’s kingdom in our battle with evil. They know if people are to be truly free their independence will only come through Jesus. Only Jesus can break the power of sin in our lives, only He can truly set us free.

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