This translation of the Greek texts misrepresents what Jesus is stating. So what did he really say and mean by this?
The word "law" is being translated from the Greek word νόμος (nomos), which refers to "commands, precepts, mosaic law, instructions." Jesus is speaking of the instructions given by God through the prophets here: Jesus is referring to the scriptures.
The Greek word μέχρι (mechri) is being translated to "were proclaimed until." This is incorrect. The word means "as far as" or "until" - nothing about proclaiming. The translators are assuming that Jesus is inferring this.
Rather, what Jesus is saying is that the instructions of the prophets preceded John and thus John inherited them and passed them down in their correct manner. It is not as though John simply ignored the prophets who preceded him. He represented them. He embellished them. He brought those teachings to life. He was an example of those teachings.
John therefore also represented the prophets before him. And Jesus himself also stated that John was a prophet as well:
"As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 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. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet." (Matthew 11:7-9)Furthermore, "since that time" is being translated from the words ἀπό (apo) - meaning from or out of - and τότε (tote) - meaning "then." This means that Jesus is simply telling his students that John carried on the teachings of the prophets. He passed them on - from that point forward.
This ecclesiastical NIV translation also makes is seem like Jesus is saying that John somehow changed the teachings - as thought his teachings were new - with the use of the phrase "good news."
Actually, the Greek word εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizō) - from which "good news" is being translated, actually means "to bring" or "to announce" or "to proclaim" "glad tidings."
The ancient reference refers to preaching - or teaching - the gospel.
In fact, most of the other translations of this verse do use "gospel" rather than "good news." The translation to "good news" is in fact a secular translation: It is not as though John was delivering newspapers or something.
There is clear evidence that Jesus was not saying this at all. Jesus says the "gospel" or "teachings" or "instructions" that John brought were specifically about one topic: βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ - here being translated to "kingdom of God."
While "kingdom" is not necessarily wrong, the word infers a physical location - as though some parts of the universe are not in the "kingdom of God."
The reality is that every location is part of God's kingdom. He created everything - every universe in both the physical and the spiritual planes.
So if we infer "kingdom of God" as a location - then we are all in God's kingdom. So there is no question of going there: We are already in the kingdom of God.
But this is not what Jesus is speaking of. According to Strong's and Thayer's lexicon, the word βασιλεία (basileia) means:
"royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."
So Jesus is not speaking of John teaching about a location. John was teaching about accepting God's authority: Accepting that the Supreme Being is the greatest, and He is our Master - our King.
This contracts with the notion that most of us living on the physical plane have: Each of us thinks that we are the greatest. We think that we are the master. We consider ourselves the king of our lives.
This is, in fact, our disease, and why we are here in the physical world living within these temporary physical bodies. We are here because we rejected our position as one of God's loving servants.
In other words, we became self-centered. So we fell into the physical universe.
Why? Just as a person who commits a crime will be put in prison in order to rehabilitate - we were sent to the physical world in order to become rehabilitated.
In other words, we became spiritual criminals. In the spiritual realm, God's children are all in love with God and everyone is serving God within that loving relationship.
But because love requires the freedom to love or not, everyone always has the choice to love and serve God - or not.
Those who decide not to love God become empty within - because the Supreme Being is our innate Beloved by nature. Just as losing a spouse will leave the widow or widower feeling empty, when we rejected God we immediately became spiritually empty.
In order to fill up that spiritual emptiness we became self-centered. And a consciousness of self-centeredness doesn't fit within the environment of the spiritual realm - where everyone is selflessly loving God and loving each other.
In such a state, we fell to the physical world and were forced to take on these temporary physical bodies.
But for those who are ready to return to the spiritual realm and our original consciousness of being one of God's loving servants, God sends His messengers - His prophets - to instruct us on how we can return home. As the Old Testament proves, God has been sending His messengers to the earth since the beginning of creation.
And John the Baptist was one of those messengers. He was preaching to those around him how they can return to the spiritual realm and take shelter in the Supreme Being.
Jesus was John's disciple - evidenced by his taking baptism by John. Thus Jesus continued John's teachings of taking shelter in God, and asked his own disciples to pass on that teaching to others:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 3:1-2)Jesus began passing on John's teachings after John was imprisoned:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt. 4:17)Then Jesus asked his own students to pass on the same teaching:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matt. 10:7)As mentioned above, the appropriate translation of kingdom in the devotional context means to take shelter of God.
Yes, take shelter. This is what a person does when they accept the authority and kingship of someone. In ancient times, a king would protect their citizens, so the citizens would essentially take shelter in the king. This is why Jesus and John utilized this word.
By taking shelter in God we resume our position as God's loving servants. We become dependent upon Him. We give our lives to Him in love.
So what has "come near" then in the above teaching by John and Jesus? Again this is mistranslated. Their teaching is indicating that God is nearby. He is available. He is close to each of us and we can reach Him immediately by surrendering ourselves to Him. This is the essential teaching that John taught, and Jesus taught and Jesus asked his students to teach.
As a result, there is no room for the translation of "everyone is forcing their way into it" at the end of Luke 16:16.
Are they kidding? No one can "force" their way into God's kingdom - because we are already in God's kingdom as stated above. Besides that, God is in complete control. No one can force God to do anything - let alone let us in.
What Jesus is saying - and the correct translation of these words - relates "to get a share... by the utmost earnestness and effort" - as stated in Thayer's lexicon.
Jesus is speaking of commitment. One who becomes committed to regaining their loving relationship with the Supreme Being - and leaving behind their self-centered life - will be successful in their endeavor.
One who is not committed - who only seeks God when it is convenient to do so - are not committed in the long run.
One might compare this to running in a marathon. If a runner drops out as soon as he feels some pain he will never finish the marathon. In order to complete the marathon one must be committed to finishing. If there is no commitment, there is little likelihood of finishing in the face of this long distance.
A marathon race is, however, just a made-up materialistic goal. Why 26 miles? It is just a distance that presents a severe challenge to most. And finishing such a race might be very difficult, but it doesn't bring any real happiness.
However, real happiness is achieved if we complete the real marathon - the test of this physical lifetime - which can last up to a century. Sticking to the goal of resuming our position as God's loving servant through an entire physical lifetime means enduring all kinds of challenges: From within and without. By enduring these challenges - and keeping our focus upon our relationship with God who is near to each of us - we can finish the marathon of this lifetime - and return to our loving service relationship with the Supreme Being. Completing such a 'marathon' ultimately makes us happy - regardless of where we are in God's kingdom.
We can thus offer a more appropriate translation of Jesus' statement:
"The Scriptures and the Prophets came before John, and since then the shelter of God has continued to be preached - and many strive to achieve it." (Luke 16:16)