“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
They are similar. Really a person has to ask, how can we be envied or happy if we are persecuted, slandered and hated? Most true followers of Christ have dealt with vilification and loathing from people. Too many, mostly in other countries have been persecuted and even martyred for Jesus. And the problem grows. There will come a time soon when even in countries like the USA persecution will become more common and even more widely accepted than it already is.
Jesus described the end times. John, Paul, and Peter all described the end times. We can see signs of it now. But the fact is that persecution and revulsion of Christians has gone on since the church began. If you haven’t faced the hate of the world, perhaps you haven’t truly followed Christ.
Jesus told us people would hate us. John 15:18-19 says,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
So let’s look at the fact that Jesus says we can be happy and envied for the persecution we will face as His followers. The word persecute in all three verses is the word diókó. Diókó is defined as to pursue, to earnestly desire to overtake, to aggressively hunt down. It is interestingly enough the same word used to describe Israel’s pursuit and passion for the Law in Romans, to describe the way we are supposed to pursue hospitality toward one another also in Romans, and the word Paul uses in Philippians chapter 3 to describe his pressing on toward the goal. But most often the word is translated with the negative connotation of persecution. (Help's Ministries Inc, 2011).
Righteousness is the same word from Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The word dikaiosuné is defined as justice, righteousness of which God is the author. It is God’s approval. (Help's Ministries Inc, 2011).
So people who are persecuted, aggressively hunted down for God’s justice and approval are blessed because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. The Kingdom of Heaven is described in the gospel of Matthew by Jesus through parables. Jesus mentions it in Matthew 13:11 in answer to the disciples’ question of His use of parables. “And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Those who believe in Christ are the ones who are able to have the faith and discernment to see the Kingdom of Heaven around us. A little further on in Matthew chapter 13 Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a farmer sowing good seed while his enemy secretly sows weeds in the farmer’s field. Rather than gather the weeds and risk hurting the good seed, the farmer says to wait until harvest time when the weeds will be revealed, gathered and burned. As followers of Christ we understand the secrets of the story, that false followers, false prophets, and false teachers will receive their punishment when we receive our reward.
Jesus also compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, a tiny seed which when planted grows into a plant so large it is like a tree and birds can rest in its branches. He also said it is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened. The Kingdom of Heaven looks small yet it grows into something much bigger than imagined, something that does good for others, something that provides sustenance for many.
The kingdom of heaven can’t be perceived by those who don’t accept Jesus. But it is good, amazing, and it grows. It doesn’t stay small and inert. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t stay secret. It is revealed to people who are willing to hear it. And it holds great promises for believers. When Jesus was teaching us to pray in Matthew 6:9-10 He said,
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Father’s will is done on earth just as it is in Heaven when we ask it. Heaven is not our future destination, a place we go after we die. It is where God dwells. It is here and now, all around us. And it is within us. Believers live in the Kingdom of Heaven right now and God lives in us! 1 John 4:7-16 says,
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
When you live out love as Jesus commanded and the Spirit enables, when you seek righteousness you manifest God. You glorify Him and people will see Him. You are living in the kingdom of Heaven and offering it to others. But so many have hard blind/deaf hearts and those people will hate you and persecute you.
The last beatitude is in Matthew 5:11-12
“11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
When you are hated because you testify that Jesus is Christ, you can be happy because you have the hope of eternity and that reward is great! In Heaven, our treasures are stored and will be bestowed on us one day when God makes a New Heaven and a New Earth and we will rejoice with God in perfection.
God tells us He saves our real treasures for us in Heaven with Him while we live on earth. In Matthew 6:1 Jesus says,
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
He tells us not to stockpile treasures on earth because all that is just temporary. He says in verses 20-21 of the same chapter, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Eternity is described for us in Revelation 21 where God will give us our reward, the treasure of crowns God has for us. (2 Timothy 4:8. James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4).
Revelation 21: 3-4 says,
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In that New Heaven and New Earth where we will spend forever, we will be whole, sinless, completed. Hebrews 22-23 tells us we will be able to be with God without fear.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,”
So even though we are persecuted, hated, and slandered we can be happy. We should be happy. We have the Kingdom of Heaven now and we have the promise of Heaven for eternity. Persecution for righteousness, hatred for Jesus sake is proof of God’s love in you, of the Spirit of God in you, and the promise of eternity. You may cry tears of sadness and pain now, but one day God Himself will wipe those tears away and you will live forever with Him as yours and you as His.
Help's Ministries Inc. (2011). 1343. dikaiosuné. Retrieved from Biblehub; Strong's exhaustive concordance: http://biblehub.com/greek/1343.htm
Help's Ministries Inc. (2011). 1377. diókó. Retrieved from Biblehub; Strong's exhaustive concordance: http://biblehub.com/greek/1377.htm