“Blessed are those who persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Roland Q. Leavell remarks, “The eight Beatitudes are the octave of kingdom music. They are like an eight-rung ladder upon which one can climb the delectable heights of Christian radiance and peace and joyous living. (Leavell, Studies in Matthew: The King and the Kingdom, p. 36).
The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean – “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG). True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. The word “persecute” (dioko) means “(a) ‘to put to flight, drive away,’ (b) ‘to pursue,’ whence the meaning ‘to persecute'” (Vine’s); “1. to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away… 2. to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after… 3. to harass, trouble, molest one, to persecute” (Thayer). Persecution may take the form of physical assault (e.g. Acts 8:2; 22:4), verbal abuse (Matthew 5:11 cf. 1 Peter 2:23; 4:4; Matthew 10:25), or false accusation (Matthew 5:11 cf. Matthew 26:59-61; Luke 23:2; Acts 6:13; 16:20-21; 17:5-7; 24:5-9).
It is important to observe that it is not suffering for just any reason that is under consideration. It is suffering for right doing, and for the cause of Christ that is under consideration (Matthew 5:10-12 cf. 1 Peter 2:20; 3:14; 3:17; 4:14-16). Peter writes, “What credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20). Again, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you… But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Peter 4:14-16). Not all persecution is due to righteous behavior. Let us make sure – that when we are persecuted – that it is for our being Christians, and not for being obnoxious, or sinful.
We must be willing to endure persecution for being Christians. Jesus taught this (Matthew 10:16-37; Revelation 2:10). Paul taught this (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 2:12; 3:12). Peter taught this (1 Peter 4:12-13). John taught this (Revelation 7:14-14; 12:11). [One does a great disservice when he leads another to believe that if he become a Christian everything will be easy, all problems will go away, and it will be paradise on earth. Too many teach this false message. It cost something to truly follow Christ. Family may turn against you (Matthew 10:35-36). Friends may reject you, and speak evil of you (1 Peter 4:4). Men may hate you (Matthew 10:22). It has cost people their lives (Acts 8:2; 12:1-2; Revelation 2:10). The facts should be made clear so that each can weigh the cost (Luke 14:25-33). Otherwise, the church becomes filled with those without deep commitment, and in the long run such weakens the church and its influence.]
When suffering, remember those who went before us. The prophets were persecuted (Matthew 5:12 cf. Hebrews 11). “Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4). Few will ever suffer as Jesus did for us. We have His example and the example of the prophets of old.
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. The reward in heaven is for those who do not compromise truth, or turn back from the faith, but are willing to suffer, if necessary, for following Christ (Revelation 2:10). One who is right with God can rejoice even in persecution. We are told of Jesus “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). The apostles rejoiced in persecution (Acts 5:41; 16:23-25). Paul encouraged, “I consider the suffering of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” (Romans 8:18). Again, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceedingly and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The writer of Hebrews wrote to some early Christians saying “you…joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34). Hugo McCord comments, “Early Christians loved the eighth beatitude…It caused them to smile in the bitterest of violence” (McCord, Happiness Guaranteed, p.58).
Eight beatitudes are contained in Matthew 5:1-12. These eight do not describe eight different types of people (i.e. one who is merciful but not pure in heart. Another is pure in heart but not merciful et al.). Instead these eight beatitudes describe one type of people. The blessed have these eight traits in common. The blessed: (1) realize their spiritual need; (2) are genuinely sorry for their sins; (3) humbly let God direct them; (4) greatly desire a right relationship with God; (5) are merciful to others; (6) are not double-minded, but pure in heart; (7) are peacemakers; (8) are ready and willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. Hugo McCord comments, “Self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature. When the eighth beatitude takes hold of a man, that man is willing to go contrary to nature” (ibid, p. 54). Commitment to Him must be even stronger than the desire for physical preservation.