Don The Armour

October 16, 2023

Our life is military. Christ is our captain, the gospel is the banner, the graces are our spiritual artillery, and heaven is only taken in a forcible way.

Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm


To most Christian readers, the idea of heaven being taken is unpalatable. We know that heaven is a gift we receive through faith in Jesus Christ; it can’t be earned. So, what is the author saying here?

He takes this language from Matthew 11:12, where Jesus says:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12 KJV)

This is a puzzling statement. It doesn’t say the violent attempt to take it by force but indicates that they succeed. But we also know that Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). It is clear that sinners could never force their way into heaven. So what does this mean?

While there are other interpretations out there, Mr. Watson (and many other Puritans) understood it to mean that Christians need to exert “holy violence” if they are going to persevere to glory. They need to put forth the kind of “violence” that John the Baptist showed in his ministry, marked by his fervent zeal for God and cries for repentance.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are living in a spiritual war. Our enemies are sin, Satan, and the world; we can’t make peace with these adversaries. Our spiritual duties of prayer, reading scripture, meditating, and the rest need to be carried out with the violence of a warrior on the front line. Soldiers that are cowardly, or worse, asleep in their foxholes, are ineffective for their Lord and likely to perish.

No matter where we are, we must remember we’re on the battlefield. Our trust must be in Christ, our captain, as we boldly carry his gospel banner and use the weapons he’s given us against our enemies. You can’t earn your way into heaven; that gift is only received by putting your faith in Jesus. But remember that following him means dying to your old self and enlisting in his army.

Our work is great, our time short, our Master urgent. We have need therefore to summon together all the powers of our souls and strive as in a matter of life and death, that we may arrive at the kingdom above. (Thomas Watson)