Jesus proclaimed that John the Baptist was the greatest Prophet:
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (lay claim to it).”
Isaiah prophesied concerning John:
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
There is an ancient highway that still runs from Egypt to Syria and modern day Iraq, the former seat of the Babylonian Empire. The highway has always been strategic because any governmental power seeking dominion over those regions needs the access the highway provides for armies to travel through Israel.
The power of government to move armies also requires the power to maintain roads through the desert. Travel through the regions referenced in the Old and New Testaments depended on straight paths that were made crooked by shifting sand and mountainous terrain. Thus, it took many laborers to carve out the roads and keep them clear. Today the Palestinian controlled enclave of Gaza blocks travel from Israel to Egypt.
So what is the highway of our God? Does God need hydraulic equipment, dynamite and bulldozers to make straight His highway in the desert? The fact that John the Baptist was announcing the Kingdom of Heaven speaks of dominion, governmental rule and Righteousness.
In the present dispensation which God has ordained to suppress evil-doers and administer justice, He makes the path straight by laws.
The power God gives to sovereign governments to enact laws is called Magistrate power, also known in American law as the Police Power. This is the power to execute orders that issue from the Judicial, Executive and Legislative branches of the government. Such governmental power is based on authority backed by prisons, armament, the power of arrest and the ability to seize property.
Ecclesia. The Church is also intended to function as a government. Christ’s servants are representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven intended to execute God’s decrees on the Earth. The ecclesia does not possess the coercive police power, nor does the Body of Christ exercise magistracy under the United States Constitution.
Notwithstanding the absence of physical force, the Ecclesia possesses authority by virtue of a partnership in the work of the Holy Spirit working providentially through various institutions and individuals that rise and fall according to God’s mysterious interventions involving human events. American Believers are the people that adhere to the Constitution more tenaciously than any other demographic group. Notwithstanding the accusations of Secularist polemics, no religious group in America has ever attempted to seize the reigns of civil government.
Believers or Followers of Christ are defined here as those who believe in interpreting the Bible as the authors intended for it to be understood. The Greek word ecclesia referred literally to a political assembly of citizens of ancient Greek states. Greek citizens were called out— or summonsed—to periodic meetings for the purpose of conducting public business and to consider laws & decrees proposed by the council. The Koinia (i.e., common Greek) word translated as church in most versions of the Bible is ecclesia. Thus, the Holy Spirit utilized a common Greek term—Ecclesia—in a manner that inspired an entirely new concept. Nevertheless, the text still connotes the earlier sense of governmental power.
Our use of the Greek term “ecclesia” as used herein emphasizes the call to exercise administrative and governmental authority. It is important to clarify, however, that the submission to Ecclesia authority is voluntary and not by means of coercive force. The only force available to the ecclesia in the U.S. is moral persuasion and the Love of God.
Many Believers are convinced that we are standing on the verge of a Great Awakening like the one that swept across America in the early 1700s. George Whitefield spoke to large crowds in frontier towns where he lifted up his voice to the mountains. Ben Franklin tells in his autobiography how he witnessed hundreds of thousands of men and women weeping in repentance at the booming sound of Whitefield’s voice. His exhortations to repentance carried over long distances in open air revival meetings.
These meetings ignited Holy Fire and Whitefield’s message was carried to many nations and even across oceans. In England many legal reforms resulted in softened conditions for the poor and brought mercy to those accused of petty crimes. Prior to the 1800s, a starving child who stole a loaf of bread would be hung. Mercy mingled with justice stopped such harsh punishments!
At the same time, many Believers in England championed the cause of their fellow English citizens in the American colonies who were demanding their right to be treated equally under English law the same as other English citizens. The Revolutionary War was to a large extent ignited by the same moral fervor that caused hardened frontiersmen to turn away from drunkenness and stop beating their wives after giving their lives to Christ under the sound of Whitefield’s booming voice preaching repentance in a cow pasture or a town square.
In England, William Wilberforce, and later in the U.S., the American Abolitionist Movement turned the world upside down to abolish slavery. The Anti-Slavery movements were rooted in the violent exertion and fervor that Believers brought to bear on public life in the aftermath of the Great Awakening. The Holy Spirit Fire continued to burn with one revival after another for many years.
“…and from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (lay claim to it).”
When Jesus commanded “Suffer little children to come unto me” everyone knows He meant that his disciples should allow children to approach Him. So what did He mean when he said, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence?”
In Luke 16:16, Jesus seems to be saying much the same thing—that the Kingdom permits violence. But Luke’s rendition states, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
This violent pressing in is not an encouragement to armed insurrection. It is more like Jesus praying with such great exertion that he perspired blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Or Whitefield shouting out the Gospel message of turning away from Hell by accepting the work of the Cross. The Koinia Greek word translated in the King James Bible as “violence” means pressing in with great force or desperate exertion. God’s Spirit exhorts men & women to press in forcefully! He wants us to make a highway so our neighbors and children and future generations of our children’s children can press in without being confused or hindered about the pathway to Righteousness.
This is how we, as Believers, can make straight the path in our present wilderness. Proclaim Righteousness, lift up the name of Jesus Christ as our covering of Righteousness. And pray for good government.
Intercede for magistrates to keep their oaths, uphold the Constitution and pray fervently for lawmakers to make laws that clearly follow the ancient pathways enunciated by Holy Scripture and mapped out in the Constitution. God has provided moral precepts that cannot save us from Hell. But they express attributes of His Eternal Order & Justice.
By fashioning the laws of the land on such Scriptural precepts, we see why protecting life & human dignity should be a priority for lawmakers & law enforcement. The reason certain rights are unalienable is because all men & women are imprinted with the image of God that He stamps on each individual even before we were conceived. By enshrining such concepts in our institutions, including governmental policies, we make the path straight for those who come after us.
Let’s press into the Kingdom with great exertion. We are in a period of time like the early 1700s when anything can happen. The world is in great distress. Believers hold the key to governmental authority especially when things seem hopeless. We are an army clothed in moral authority if we exercise the weapons of our warfare and make straight the Highway.
Highways start as pathways and then get wider and more well-traveled over generations. But only if they are maintained.