"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).
The kingdom of heaven suffers violence in one of two ways. Either by those who oppose it, or by those pressing to enter it (Luke 16:16). Whichever the meaning of the first part of this verse, there can be no mistake about the second. If the first meaning applies to the first part, then I understand it to mean that some oppose, while others enter the kingdom. That best fits the context. If the second meaning applies, then the phrase “suffereth violence” is explained by “the violent take it by force.” That is, the kingdom is assaulted by those pressing to enter.
John Gill offers an alternative translation to the phrase, "suffereth violence" as, "comes with force and power on the souls of men" (Gill).
However, I tend to favor the first meaning. Yes, the kingdom of heaven comes with force and power on the souls of men. Yes, it comes vigorously. But it seems to me that a contrast is drawn throughout this chapter (Matt. 11) between those opposing, rejecting and neglecting this paramount time in history, and the events and the two messengers -- John and Christ -- to their own damnation, and those, who, by the grace of God, eagerly pursue salvation in Christ alone. These latter "press into it" (Luke 16:16). They appear the least likely, the most improbable; yet they sue for mercy before Christ, and come to God with only Him as their confidence, sacrifice and righteousness. They argue for entrance by His gracious achievements for sinners, and abandon all hope besides what they have in Him. To them, there is an anxious pressing. And what is this, but the irresistible drawing of the gracious, almighty Spirit of God (John 6:44-45,63; 10:16; Psalm 110:3)?
Picture a gate to a city. Hordes of anxious people crowd before it. They want in. They will not take “no” for an answer. They are insistent and urgent and importunate. They need what’s inside. Their lives depend on it. They have no life outside. They have heard of God’s riches of grace for needy sinners by Christ alone, and they want to be found in Him. They strive to enter by abandoning all and coming to God by Christ alone (Luke 13:24; Acts 4:12; John 14:6). They labor by laying aside all but what Christ has done, to lay hold on eternal life by Him (Heb. 4:1-11). They come (Matt. 11:28-30). They cry (Psalm 34:15-17; 50:15). They give God no rest.
Christ is the door to the kingdom of God, the door of the sheep. All who enter, only enter by Him, and entering by Him are saved (John 10:9). Thus, not only at this time, but throughout the Gospel age, the Elect of God thrust themselves into the kingdom of heaven by coming to God by Christ, pleading entry for His sake alone, abandoning all other confidence, leaving all to have Him. Being thus found of Him and finding Him, they want only to be found in Him (Philippians 3:7-10). This is their one desire and effort. It appears that they thrust their way in, because by every outward appearance they should be barred from entry. Yet in coming, they have nothing and bring nothing but what God has said of Christ for sinners. They argue grounds outside of themselves, grounds found only in Christ’s obedience and death, and God’s acceptance of Him, and His acceptance of all in Him.
Haven’t you found it to be so?! Over your life, since you heard the Gospel, have you had any other question on your mind when you hear the preacher, or read the Bible or pray to God than this: “How can I be saved? How can I come to God and be accepted by Him? How can I know I have eternal life? What is my hope, my answer before God?” You are not interested in ancillary issues. You want Christ to know you, to find you, to bring you. And having been found and brought, you want to be found in Him and know Him. This is the thrust of your conscience and life! What is the explanation for this?! You are violent about it. Others, looking on, would say you are the least likely, the most improbable to come and enter here. But you have heard of free grace to ruined, lost sinners, and you find yourself described by that sad state. In the Gospel, you hear that Christ is the full and perfect provision for all such as you are. So you come to God by Him. And in so coming, by the instruction of scripture, you are comforted (Isaiah 40:1-2; 1 Tim. 1:15; Luke 18:13; Mark 10:46-52).
We are to strive to enter at the strait gate. You must enter by Christ alone. "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9; Acts 4:11-12; John 14:6).