MATTHEW CHAPTER 11
(v. 7) '''As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
(v. 8) If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.
(v. 9) Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
(v. 10) This is the one about whom it is written: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you." '''
"I [Jesus] tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
"is greater" = "Positionally greater, not morally. John the Baptist was as great, in strength of character, as any man 'born of woman' but, as to the kingdom, his ministry was to anounce that it was at hand. The kingdom did not then come but was rejected, and John was martyred and the King subsequently crucified. The least in the kingdom, when it is set up in glory... (Lk 1:31-33; 1 Cor 15:24) will be greater than John in the fullness of the Lord's power and glory [as part of the Body of Christ, the Church]. It is not heaven which is in question, but Messiah's earthly kingdom." 1
1C.I. Scofield, (The New Scofield Study Bible, NIV, New York, Oxford University Press, 1967, p.p. 986-987)
Notice that John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets is still not to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ of which the least of the saints - believers of the Church Age - will be part of and in greater position than John in the Kingdom Age, Christ's Millennial Rule as part of the Body of Christ co-ruling the world over John the Baptist and all the rest of the non-church age saints.
[J. Vernon McGee states, (Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1983, p. 63)]:
" 'Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.' = When the Lord Jesus came, He began calling out a group of people who are even greater than John the Baptist [i.e., the Church, the Body of Christ]. How can they be greater? Because they are in Christ and clothed with His righteousness, [which is unique to this body]."
[Expositors Bible Commentary, NIV, Frank E Gaebelein, Editor, Vol. 8, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1984, pp. 264-5]:
"In view of the fact that a comparison establishing John as greater than the prophets immediately precedes this text, it is most natural to take ho mikroteros as meaning 'the least' in the kingdom. This entails the view that John the Baptist was not himself in the kingdom...
He was the greatest of the prophets because he pointed most unambiguously to Jesus. Nevertheless even the least in the kingdom is greater yet because, living after the crucial revelatory and eschatological events have occurred... [after the] veiled place in the redemptive history [having unfolded]... he or she points to Jesus still more unambiguously than John the Baptist....
Thus the ground is being laid for the Great Commission: clear witness to Christ before men is not only a requirement of the kingdom (10:32-33) and a command of the resurrected Lord (28:18-20) but the true greatness of the disciple (11:11)."
After John the Baptist we have in view a unique group of believers who are identified with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit for the first time in history, the Church who will all be greater in the Kingdom than John the Baptist.
"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and the violent take it by force"
"has been forcefully advancing" = "biazetai", present tense, middle voice, indicative mood = statement of fact, 3rd person, singular
"seize" = "harpazousin", present, active voice, indicative mood, 3rd person, plural
The first verb, "biazetai" = "has been forcefully advancing" is in the middle voice wherein the subject of the verb is acting in its own interest, implying the forceful advancing actions of those who are doing God's Work relative to the establishment of His Kingdom in the world, beginning with our Lord Jesus Christ Himself from the time John the Baptist announced Him. Recall when both John the Baptist and then our Lord preached, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand", (Mt 3:2; 4:17) which was an announcement that the kingdom of God was about to be ushered in forcefully by the Lord Himself following the acceptance of all Israel of Her Messiah and King.
The noun "biastai" = violent men and the verb of the last clause "harpazousin" = seize, present tense, active voice, indicative mood = statement of fact, 3rd person, plural point to evil connotations wherein violent, evil men have been trying (conative present) to plunder it, meaning to force the kingdom of God to take over the world in accordance with their own self-serving point of view, i.e., under their own rule.
[Expositors, op. cit., p. 267]:
"If this is a form of antanclasis (a figure of speech in which the same word is repeated in a different or even contradictory sense), based in this instance not on exactly the same word but on a cognate, (related word from the same root word) the verse admirably suits the context. The argument up to v. 11 has established John the Baptist's greatness, grounded in his ministry of preparing for and pointing out Christ; and it has anticipated the witness of those in the kingdom who are even greater than John because the least of them of testifies to Christ yet more clearly. Now, Jesus goes on to say, from the days of the Baptist - i.e., from the beginning of Jesus' ministry - the kingdom has been forcefully advancing (the point also made in Luke 16:16). But it has not swept all opposition away...
Simultaneous with the kingdom's advance have been the attacks of violent men on it... The statement is general because it does not refer to just one kind of opposition. It includes Herod's imprisonment of John, the attacks by Jewish leaders now intensifying (9:34; 12:22-24), the materialism that craved a political Messiah and the prosperity He would bring but not His righteousness (11:20-24). Already Jesus has warned His disciples of persecution and suffering (10:16-42); the opposition was rising and would get worse. Meanwhile, not the aggressive zealots will find rest for their souls, but the weary, the burdened, the children to whom the Father has revealed the truth (vv. 25-30). The last-mentioned passage is the death-knell of those who think the biastai are 'forceful men' (in a positive sense): that is exactly what the chapter, taken as a whole, rules out. Instead, we are hearing the sound of divine grace, a note that becomes a symphony later in this Gospel."