209. Kingdom's advance.
'From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it." (Matthew 11:12, NIV) If Jesus made this observation about the kingdom of God even before the day of Pentecost, then how much more forceful it is now, since the kingdom of God came with power on the day of Pentecost! The reason why many can't observe this advance is because it happens in the unseen realm and therefore, cannot be seen with our physical eyes. They look at the dwindling Church attendance and have concluded that Christianity is dying! In Europe, they call it the "Post Christian era" because they see empty Church buildings being converted to pubs and discotheques and other Church property being sold as real estate. But little do they know the kingdom of God is advancing elsewhere; sinners are being saved 'and the Lord is adding to their number daily those who are being saved.' ( Acts 2:47) Hallelujah! Afterall, the Church is not the building but the people! This is what Jesus meant when he said, "I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18) From the time John started preaching the gospel, the kingdom of God started forcing its way through the kingdom of darkness and setting prisoners free. They came from all walks of life to be baptized by John; common men, Pharisees, Sadducees, tax collectors even soldiers! ( Luke 3:7-14) 'Confessing their sins they were baptized by him in the Jordan river.' (Mark 1:4-5) After John was put in prison ( Vs 14) Jesus continued where John left, preaching the good news about the kingdom of God. 'He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.' ( Acts 10:38) But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles took the Roman world by storm ! They were labelled "trouble makers" because wherever they went, they 'plundered hell and populated Heaven'! Those who opposed Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, shouted, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have come here!" ( Acts 17:6) The King James version is right in having translated Matthew 11:12 as follows : "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force." The battle is fierce because the enemy is putting up a stiff opposition but they are no match for the Spirit who is the driving force behind the Church. The mission of the Church is to establish the kingdom of God and the gates of Hades have failed to stop the advance of the kingdom of God. However, it is not a "land campaign", as the Israelites did under the leadership of Moses, Joshua and Judges, to take possession of the promised land, but rather a "soul campaign; to find subjects who are willing to live under the rule of King Jesus. Nevertheless, this "soul campaign" too witnesses violence, as did the "land campaign" because there is a battle for every soul. Jesus said something interesting about the souls that manage to enter the kingdom of God. He said that "the violent take it by force." Like men who valiantly fights to protect their nation and their loved ones; who fiercely fights to stop the enemy from taking what is rightfully theirs, we ought to fight the good fight of faith. It's time that we get "violent" in our faith and take hold of the gospel promises by "force". Amen.