Beatitudes: Blessed Are Those 
Who Are Persecuted

By: Bill Bratt


One of Jesus' earliest sermons was the "Sermon on the Mount" and He gave eight Beatitudes to His disciples.

'Beatitudes' are defined as 'Supreme blessings or happiness.' 'Blessed' is defined as 'Made sacred or consecrated', 'bringing happiness.'

Let's read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, "And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. {2} Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: {3} "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {4} Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. {5} Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. {6} Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. {7} Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. {8} Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. {9} Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. {10} Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. {12} Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Letís focus in on the eighth beatitude. This beatitude is in three parts. We will start in verse 10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

This beatitude deals with those who are persecuted, not for their own wrongdoings, but for righteousnessí sake.

You may not feel blessed when you are persecuted but you are favored by God for being persecuted for righteousness' sake.

The kingdom of heaven is promised to those believers who suffer for doing right. Their integrity condemns the ungodly world and brings out its anger and hostility. People hate a righteous man because it exposes their own sin and unrighteousness.

Isaiah said in chapter 59 verse 15, "He who departs from evil makes himself a prey."

People notice that Christians do not talk using profanity, guile and malicious words. Our example is important. We must be honest, truthful and positive minded.

Letís notice what Peter said, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." {15} But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:14-15).

When we are exercising the fruits of the Spirit, they are noticed by other people. Our attitude should display the fruits of love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faith, patience and self control.

Letís notice Paul's Charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-16, "But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, {11} persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. {12} Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. {13} But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. {14} But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, {15} and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. {16} All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

Notice that the apostle Paul mentions some of the fruits of the Spirit but he also mentions persecution. Look at verse 12, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."

Do you remember what Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also" (John 15:20).

Hebrews 11 is the Faith chapter and it tells of many godly people who were persecuted for righteousness' sake.

Hebrews 11starting in verse 32, "What more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: {33} who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, {34} quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. {35} Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. {36} Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. {37} They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; {38} of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. {39} And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, {40} God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."

Verse 35 talks about a Ďbetter resurrectioní which is the first resurrection in which we will be resurrected to serve with Jesus Christ in the millennial Kingdom of God set up on the earth.

Blessed Are You When They Revile and Persecute You

Letís look at part 2 of this beatitude.

Verse 11 of Matthew 5, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake."

Here persecution is for Christís sake. Jesus knew that His disciples would be mistreated because of their association with Him and their loyalty to Him. History has confirmed this. From the outset the world has persecuted, jailed and killed followers of Jesus.

Letís look at an example in ancient Rome where they had made Ceasar a god.

The following is from the "Daily Study Bible Series on Matthew" by William Barclay, page 114.

"The worship of the Emperor became, not voluntary, but compulsory. Once a year a man had to go and burn a pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar and say, "Caesar is Lord." And that is precisely what the Christians refused to do. For them Jesus Christ was the Lord, and to no man would they give that title which belonged to Christ.

It can be seen at once that Caesar-worship was far more a test of political loyalty than anything else. In actual fact when a man had burned his pinch of incense he received a certificate, a libellus, to say that he had done so, and then he could go and worship any god he liked, so long as his worship did not interfere with public order and decency. The Christians refused to conform. Confronted with the choice, "Caesar or Christ?" they uncompromisingly chose Christ. They utterly refused to compromise. The result was that, however good a man, however fine a citizen a Christian was, he was automatically an outlaw. In the vast Empire, Rome could not afford pockets of disloyalty, and that is exactly what every Christian congregation appeared to the Roman authorities to be."

Now letís look at another example of a devoted follower and martyr of Christ by the name of Polycarp.

The following is from the "Daily Study Bible Series on Matthew" by William Barclay, page 115.

"To have to suffer persecution was an opportunity to show one's loyalty to Jesus Christ. One of the most famous of all the martyrs was Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna. The mob dragged him to the tribunal of the Roman magistrate. He was given the inevitable choice - sacrifice to the godhead of Caesar or die. "Eighty and six years," came the immortal reply, "have I served Christ, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" So they brought him to the stake, and he prayed his last prayer: "O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well-beloved and ever-blessed Son, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee . . . I thank thee that thou hast graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this hour." Here was the supreme opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Jesus Christ."

What did Jesus tell His disciples, ""But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake" (Luke 21:12).

Rejoice and Be Glad, For Great Is Your Reward in Heaven

Letís look at part 3 of this beatitude.

Verse 12 of Matthew 5, "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Letís see how they "persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Matthew tells us more about what Jesus said in chapter 23 starting in verse 29, ""Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, {30} "and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' {31} "Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. {32} "Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. {33} "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? {34} "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, {35} "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. {36} "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

We are to rejoice and be glad as this beatitude says. To suffer for Christís sake is a privilege that should cause joy. A great reward awaits those who become companions of the prophets in tribulation.

Our reward is to be resurrected and be in the Kingdom of God and to rule with Jesus Christ for a thousand years.

Our Reward is the Kingdom of Heaven

Letís focus in on the reward associated with this beatitude: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Why did Matthew use the term "Kingdom of Heaven"?

The Jewish New Testament Commentary says: "The word "Heaven" was used in pious avoidance of the word "God" and to this day Hebrew malkhut-haShammayim ("Kingdom of Heaven") substitutes in Jewish religious literature for "Kingdom of God," an expression found frequently in the New Testament, first at Matthew 6:33. In the Jewish New Testament "Heaven" is capitalized when it refers to God; "heaven" is in lower-case when it refers to the sky or paradise"(1).

"The Talmud (Pesachim 50a) made it a requirement not to pronounce the Tetragrammaton (the word means the "four-letter name" (YHVH) of God), and this remains the rule in most modern Jewish settings" (2).

The NIV Study Bible relates, under the section Purpose: "Matthewís main purpose is to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus is their Messiah. He does this primarily by showing how Jesus in his life and ministry fulfilled the O.T. Scriptures."

Matthew primarily wrote to the Jews. He did not want to offend them so he used the term "Kingdom of Heaven" in lieu of the phrase "Kingdom of God".

This Kingdom of God that we should be seeking will be set up on the earth after Jesus Christ returns. When Jesus returns the dead in Christ and the Saints who are alive will be resurrected and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians 15). Christ will set up the Kingdom and will be King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). The Saints will rule with Jesus Christ and He will "have made them kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:8-10), "with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6).

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Footnotes:

(1): David H. Stern, "The Jewish New Testament Commentary",1966, p. 16.

(2): David H. Stern, "The Jewish New Testament Commentary",1966, p. 4.


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