The ESV renders Matthew 11:12 as such: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. However, it also suggest another rendering which would be: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently, and the violent take it by force.
I have always found this verse intriguing and have often wondered what it meant. In Jesus and the Kingdom, George Ladd addresses this verse and attempts to explain it. After discussing 5 of the most popular explanations and their implicit faults, he goes on to suggest the meaning he thinks best suits the verse in light of the context of the verse and with others verses about the kingdom of heaven in mind.
For various reasons, Ladd believes the 'coming violently' rendering is the most reasonable and thus he describes what the verse would mean:"Jesus taught that because God had acted, because the dynamic power of his kingdom has invaded the world, men are to respond with a radical reaction."(159) These reactions were suggested in other demands of Jesus: if your hand causes you to sin then cut it off, if your eye causes you to sin then pluck it out, if one does not hate his family he cannot be my disciple, He came not to bring peace but a sword, a man should be willing to surrendered everything he has to enter the kingdom.
Ladd does not suggest that these verse are to be taken literally but he believes they indicate the manner in which we appropriate God's kingdom. "The presence of the kingdom demands radical, violent conduct. Men cannot passively await the coming of the eschatalogical Kingdom as the apocalyptists taught. On the contrary, the Kingdom has come to them, and they are actively, aggressively, forcefully to seize it." (160)
Keep in mind the definition of violent: involving extreme(the greatest degree) force(anything that is able to make a change). This is important because though I believe God's kingdom has inflicted harm on the kingdom of darkness I do not think this is a call to physical violence. In the context of this verse Jesus has explained to John's disciples that the the kingdom of heaven has not come in the social-political-physical sense that John thought it would. Jesus was not going to conquer Rome. But he made it clear that the kingdom had come with violence and it required a similar response from those wishing to be a part of it.
This seems like a reasonable approach to this verse and I'm going with it until I am persuaded otherwise. What do you think?