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Luke 16:16  (King James Version)

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Luke 16:16

True Christianity is not a popular way of life today, and it was no different during the first century. After three and a half years of preaching, Jesus Himself had only about 120 disciples (Acts 1:15), which does not support the idea that "everyone" was trying to enter the Kingdom upon hearing the gospel. God was not calling everyone then (or now), and so everyone was not "pressing" to get into His Kingdom.

In addition, the way that one enters the Kingdom is not simply through a confession or profession of faith. Rather, Jesus says in John 3:5 that one must be "born of water and Spirit" to enter the Kingdom of God, a reference to the Father's cleansing and engendering of a person that makes him a new, spiritual creation within a physical body. It is something that only the Father does—no amount of human effort forces Him to open the door. However, once that regeneration has taken place, then we are "conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love," as it says in Colossians 1:13. We are already a part of that Kingdom! But the bottom line is that this is an operation that happens according to the Father's will, not any human's.

Therefore, "everyone is pressing into it" not only misrepresents the underlying Greek, but it is also out of sync with what the scriptures reveal concerning God's calling and election. A rendering that is faithful to the rest of Scripture and fits with the Greek would be something like "everyone uses violence towards it" or "everyone is behaving violently against it." This may raise other questions—to be examined shortly—but it is at least not contradictory.

Similar misconceptions need to be dealt with in Matthew 11:12. A common explanation is that believers with holy zeal and earnestness are laying hold of the Kingdom with absolute determination. Barnes' Notes is typical: "Since 'the kingdom of heaven' or 'the gospel' has been preached, there has been a 'rush' to it. People have been 'earnest' about it; they have come 'pressing' to obtain the blessing, as if they would take it by violence."

Zeal and earnestness are absolutely needed for the sanctification process. In one context, this can even include the implication of metaphorical violence: Paul speaks of disciplining his body to bring it into subjection, so that he is not disqualified (I Corinthians 9:27). Thus energy, determination, and self-discipline are wonderful traits—but they do not match with what Jesus describes in Matthew 11:12.

One problem with this interpretation is that it puts men in the position of "taking" or "seizing" the Kingdom, another false concept. Whether we are considering our being conveyed into the Kingdom after our regeneration or inheriting it when Christ returns, in neither case is it fitting to say that we seize it or take it by force. Instead, Jesus says, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Any reward, prize, gift, or instance of grace that comes to us from God—including the Kingdom—can be received but not seized by force.

Perhaps the clearest statement of this is Luke 18:17, where Jesus says, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." The kind of child He means does not violently seize anything, especially not the Kingdom. The child receives rather than takes it.

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force

Luke 16:16

Another word plays an important part here—the word "into" in Luke 16:16. The Greek word behind it, eis (Strong's #1519), a common preposition, is indeed frequently translated as "into." However, depending on the context, it can also be translated as "against" or "toward."

So, the Greek allows for the subdued translation of "everyone is pressing into [the kingdom]," but it could just as accurately be translated as "everyone is behaving violently against it." The Douay-Rheims Bible, which predates the King James, renders the last part of Luke 16:16 as "everyone use[s] violence towards it." In this way, it matches perfectly with Matthew 11:12: "the kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force

Luke 16:16-17

It is helpful to realize that at its establishment on earth the Kingdom of God will be ruling over unconverted people who have just passed through the most horrific period of tribulation in the history of mankind. These people will need guidance from absolutely trustworthy standards.

No nation, not even the Kingdom of God, can govern human beings without laws. There must be standards of conduct for citizens to follow, or chaos and anarchy will result as each person does what seems right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). But "God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (I Corinthians 14:33). His Kingdom will be peaceful and orderly because people will be led to submit themselves voluntarily to His rule of law - His commandments.

Unfortunately, many believe that the commandments are done away, having been replaced by love. This can easily lead a person to believe the opposite of what is true regarding the commandments. People have a strong tendency to think of them in terms of restrictive bondage, whereas love is perceived as liberating. The apostle John says, however, that the commandments of God are love and not grievous (I John 5:3).

What does Jesus teach? In Matthew 22:36, He was asked, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" His reply is instructive:

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

Notice that both of the two Great Commandments encompass love. The first four of the Ten Commandments show man how to love God, and the second group of six shows man how to love fellow man. The commandments remove love from being merely an emotion and reveal how to apply love practically. As one commentator stated, "Love is what you do."

It was Jesus, as God of the Old Testament, who gave to ancient Israel God's laws in their codified form from Mount Sinai. When He became a man, what did He teach in reference to these very commandments?

» "If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)

» "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (John 14:21)

» "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." (John 14:23-24)

The apostle James calls the Ten Commandments "the royal law," meaning it came from a King and is worthy of His Kingdom (James 2:8-12).

God has never done away with His Ten Commandments, and they never shall be done away. They will be lived by all those given eternal life forever. They will also be the basic law of those possessing mortal life when Jesus returns. From God's commandments, all laws governing every aspect of a moral life will be drawn and applied in their spirit. Their standards will be the rule of law against which people's lives will be guided and judged.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)

Luke 16:16-17

Is there any doubt in our minds that we are within striking range of the return of Jesus Christ? The gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached for almost two thousand years, and prophecies made by Him and others regarding His return are being fulfilled. The crisis at the close is almost upon us. Mankind's only hope is revealed in the gospel, yet we find great ignorance regarding what His good news is.

The complete secularization of the Western, "Christian" world is almost accomplished, and doctrinal confusion abounds. It seems as though the vast number of professing Christians believe that all one must do is believe in the name of Jesus Christ to be saved. This is most certainly required, but Jesus Himself says in Mark 1:15 that one must believe in the gospel in order to be saved.

That is quite a bit different than merely believing in Jesus. While it is definitely true that Jesus died for our sins, the true gospel provides a great deal more instruction regarding Christianity and its purpose than solely Jesus' part in our salvation. It reveals that a Christian must play an active part in the spiritual creation that God is working in and through men.

One of the more effective deceptions Satan has palmed off on mankind is that all God is attempting to do is to "save" people. Most Christians somehow fail to think of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as actively involved in doing something more with those who are converted.

Consider this process, which most people believe: At some time in his life, the "saved" one had perceived the need to be forgiven of his sins. He then asked God to forgive him, and from that point on, because of Christ's blood, he was "saved." Is this true? Though this illustration has been simplified a great deal, it is nevertheless close to the prevalent belief.

We will add a biblical fact to that scenario. Almost all Bible commentators hold that the Israelite's experience of walking through the wilderness following Israel's release from bondage to Egypt is a type of a Christian's walk following his conversion. Walking is typical of laboring or working to reach an objective.

Did the Israelites arrive in the Promised Land - a type of the Kingdom of God - immediately upon release from their bondage? No! They had ahead of them a forty-year journey filled with trials. As they journeyed, God worked with them and supplied their needs, preparing them for their inheritance. Release from Egypt only began another aspect of God's work with them. To reach their objective, a great deal of labor lay ahead of them.

We all need to come to grips with the reality that our Creator is a God who works. He is not merely observing mankind, or worse still, having gone way off somewhere in the vastness of the universe, letting things run more or less on their own. Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." More plainly, the Father began working in the indefinite past and has continued working right up till now. God is not sitting around passively saving people.

In Psalm 74:12, notice the psalmist Asaph's revelation of what God is doing: "For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." The salvation of human beings requires God to work, yet some seem to think that all He does is as simple as turning a "forgiveness switch," and the person is saved. However, in various places both the Father and the Son are called "Saviors." It ought to be apparent that saving a person from circumstances he needs deliverance from requires a savior to work. If a deliverer or savior does not make a strenuous effort, the one in need of rescue will not be saved.

Jesus testified that the Father was working at that very moment. The Bible provides abundant records of Jesus, our Savior, working on behalf of mankind: teaching, counseling, praying, healing, setting the example for His disciples, and obeying His Father flawlessly in order to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Further, He says in John 14:10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." Jesus thus shows the Father to be His partner in His ministry.

In addition, when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, He was made Head of the Church, as well as its High Priest. As such, He is responsible to the Father for working with the members of His Body, interceding on our behalf. He thus bears great responsibility for the salvation of its individual members and the success of the church as a whole. These vital tasks require His careful attention, especially as events near the crisis at the close of the age.

The conclusion is obvious: The work of God abounds with works for all concerned in seeking the objective He has set before us in His purpose. That objective is the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)

Luke 16:16

Is it not clear that Jesus Christ came preaching the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17-23; 9:35; 10:7; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2, 60; Luke 16:16)? Does this not suggest that this was what He wanted to be preached at all times? It certainly seems that way! It was His only focus! He says He had to go and preach to other cities the Kingdom of God, and He sent His disciples out, saying, "You preach the Kingdom of God too."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears

Luke 16:16

Before plunging into what Jesus is saying in these verses, it is helpful to consider what He cannot be saying if Scripture is to remain unbroken (John 10:35). In the various translations and commentaries of these verses, certain prejudices influence how scholars interpret them. The New King James translators chose the phrase "everyone is pressing into it," despite the Greek just barely supporting it. Other translations at least acknowledge the forcefulness inherent within the Greek words, rendering it as "everyone strives violently to go in" (The Amplified Bible; emphasis ours throughout) or "everyone forces his way into it" (English Standard Version). These all suggest the idea that the gospel message was so popular that everyone who heard it was beating down the doors of the Kingdom, as it were. They also contain the idea that everyone could enter the Kingdom at that time.

But both of those ideas are false.

It was not possible for everyone who heard the gospel to enter the Kingdom, no matter how vigorously one might try, and that is true even now. Only those whom God draws to the Son can enter the Kingdom (John 6:44). Matthew 16:17 shows that only by an act of the Father did Peter recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Acts 13:48 says specifically that "as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed," indicating that those who have not yet been appointed to eternal life did not (and cannot) believe.

The idea that everyone hearing the gospel of the Kingdom is pushing to get in completely overlooks the specificity of God's calling and election (Romans 8:30) and the fact that He is working with only a few during this age, the firstfruits of His spiritual harvest. A person cannot truly seek the Kingdom or its King until God changes something in his mind (John 5:39-40), and simply hearing the words of the gospel does not necessarily accomplish that.

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force

Luke 16:16

Part of the difficulty in understanding the meaning of these verses stems from the fact that the pivotal Greek words are rare, which means we cannot examine their usage in other places in the Bible to understand how they should be used here. In addition, the preconceptions and biases of the translators influence the way they render passages. But it is vital to understand what Jesus Christ is saying here, so it is worth the effort to more thoroughly examine His words.

In Matthew 11:12, the Greek word translated as "suffers violence" (biazo; Strong's #971) is used in only one other place, as we will see. The word rendered as "the violent" (biastes; Strong's #973), a closely related word, is used nowhere else in the Bible. The verse revolves around these words, but their narrow biblical usage limits our technical understanding.

In Luke 16:16 ("the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it"), the Greek word translated as "pressing" in the New King James is the same word translated as "suffers violence" in Matthew 11:12 (biazo). In secular usage, this word means "to use force on; to use power; to behave violently; to assault; to afflict; to oppress; or to constrain." The translation "suffers violence" in Matthew 11:12 springs easily from this meaning, but "pressing into" in Luke 16:16 obscures it. "Pressing" is a weak translation, suggesting a group of people squeezing together to get in the doors of an amusement park. We must keep in mind that it is the same verb translated as "suffers violence."

To briefly summarize these two verses, then, everyone is pressing into the Kingdom, the Kingdom suffers violence, and violent people take it by force.

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force

Luke 16:14-18

Jesus is again confronting the Pharisees. He had just given them the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which speaks about money, thus, this little section is introduced with the Pharisees described as being covetous. Does covetousness have anything to do with the commands of God? How about the tenth commandment?

The Pharisees were offended. Even though Jesus Himself did not say anything directly about covetousness, they were perceptive enough to pick up the drift of His parable. They justified their attitude of covetousness before men who would accept their rationalizations, but as Jesus says in verse 15, they could not escape the scrutiny of God, who judges the heart!

Jesus says that people were pressing into the Kingdom of God. Why? Because Jesus was preaching it, and people were believing the message and repenting. How deeply they believed it is not the point at this time. Crowds were following Jesus, and this enters into His explanation. Jesus warns the Pharisees that, just because people were pressing into the Kingdom of God due to Jesus' preaching of the gospel, they themselves would not pass blithely under the bar of judgment because God would judge them according to the standards given in His law.

Where are those standards given? In the Old Testament! Thus, He says that it is easier for heaven to pass away than for one tittle of the law to pass. Their covetousness would be judged by what was written in the Old Testament. In other words, He could perceive that they were quite sensitive to the standards written in the Old Testament.

To illustrate, He gives an additional principle that He pulls from the Pentateuch, from Genesis 2:24: "Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another. . . ." Why does He bring that in? Because the Pharisees in actuality had a very cavalier attitude toward the law of God, especially in the area of marriage and divorce. They just brushed it off.

The point is this: Our Savior did not have a cavalier attitude towards the Old Testament. He had every opportunity here to tell these people, "A New Covenant is coming, so do not worry about your sins. We are just going to overlook them." But He did not. He upheld the law and judgment according to it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)

Luke 16:16

The key to understanding Jesus' words lies in understanding how the phrase "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" is used. We know that the Kingdom of God has a future aspect, when Christ will rule over the nations and His glorified brothers and sisters will reign with Him. There is also a present aspect, as we have already been conveyed into the Kingdom (Colossians 1:13), and now our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are already part of that heavenly Kingdom. It is a present reality for the firstfruits—though not in its fullness—and in the near future, it will be a worldwide reality.

Yet, there is another way to understand the Kingdom. When Jesus said that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17)—meaning nearby—He was referring to Himself. When He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them, or in their midst (Luke 17:21), He referred to Himself. The king is always the highest representative of a kingdom, so when the king is present, the kingdom is also present.

We can see this in a couple of scriptures: "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). Here, God's Kingdom is defined as Jesus' exercise of His power. The King, in exerting His authority over unclean spirits, displays the reign or the rule of God. The Kingdom of God is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

This can also be seen in Mark 9:1-2:

And He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power." Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.

Jesus tells them they will see the Kingdom of God present with power, and within a week they see Him transfigured. His being revealed to them in glory was a demonstration of the power of God's Kingdom. Even without the glory, what stood among them was still the Kingdom of God. Because He is the King, as the central figure of the Kingdom, wherever He went, the Kingdom was present. In the book of Acts, the message of the Kingdom is inextricably tied to the central Being in that Kingdom (Acts 8:12; 19:8-10; 28:23, 31). To take this a step further, where the King abides in any person or where a person is in Christ, the Kingdom is also present.

We can now apply this principle to Christ's statements. Matthew 11:12 says that from the days of John the Baptist's preaching until that of Jesus—and even to today—Christ and those in whom He dwells suffer violence: physical or verbal assault, affliction, oppression, constraint, and perhaps even martyrdom. This world's forceful and self-willed people "seize" that Kingdom as they would a fortified city, through opposing its citizens in some way.

Similarly, in Luke 16:16, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone uses violence against it, signifying opposition in one form or another, to constrain or repress the King and His citizens. As John records, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).

In other words, the gospel message was not popular. It bore fruit in those who were being called (Isaiah 55:11). Others hoped that the kingdom of Judah would be restored, and they were probably content to wait and watch this Man as He went about—as curiosity-seekers rather than opponents. However, for those who had a vested interest in maintaining the political and religious status quo, the gospel was seen as a threat, and those linked with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ were the object of all manner of resistance and persecution, both before and especially after His death.

Notice, for example, Jesus' words in Matthew 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." Some were then in the process of entering the Kingdom, and the resistance and oppression of the scribes and Pharisees were obstacles to that entrance. John 9:22 records that "the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue." The scribes and Pharisees, as well as those influenced by them, persecuted those God was drawing into His Kingdom. There was such animosity that the King Himself suffered the most awful violence that has ever been perpetrated: a mob of creatures wantonly crucifying their sinless Creator.

We face a similar circumstance today. Even nominal Christians suffer Muslim persecution in one part of the world, while others are blocked, ridiculed, and constrained by secularists and humanists in another. True Christianity is denounced as being heretical and cultic, and its adherents suffer violence in various ways. This violence does not have to be physical violence. It can be verbal. It can be passive. It can be persecution or opposition in any number of ways.

Wherever the spirit of Satan is present, his children make the way difficult for those who are in Christ or who are being drawn to Him. They reject the royal law of the Kingdom and ridicule God's sovereignty. They sneer at His inspired Word. The violence that the Kingdom suffers will vary by degrees, but it is found wherever the ruler of this world has influence.

This is why Jesus says in John 16:33 that in the world, we will have persecution, but He also says to "be of good cheer." He does not say He will remove persecution right away, but instead, He says that He has overcome the world. He sets limits on how much violence He will allow, and what He does allow He will redeem for His own good will. The violence we suffer will never compare to the violence that He suffered for us. One day soon, though, the violence against the Kingdom will be defeated, and the violent will be given the opportunity to worship the King whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10).

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force

Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 16:16:

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10


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