The eighth Beatitude reads: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:10)
Jesus expands in more detail while setting forth this Beatitude because He knows our frame as being mortals that we would need extra encouragement and assurance in order to live out the principles being set forth. Therefore, He went on to add: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (verses 11 and 12).
Let’s look at the definitions of the terms Christ used in His expansion of this Beatitude. First is the term “revile.” It means to mock or criticize in an abusive manner. Persecute means to afflict or harass constantly as to cause injury or distress, especially for religious reasons. It seems that to be reviled is only to suffer for the evil words others say about you. Persecution takes it to the next level and involves actions. Actions inflict injuries and harm and in some cases, even death.
We can expect to be persecuted when we endeavor to live a truly spotless life for the Lord. It just goes with the territory. The Apostle Paul taught us this when he said in Second Timothy 3:12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” If this scripture isn’t enough to convince you of being persecuted while striving to live for God, then consider these words from Christ in Luke 6:26: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” This scripture implies that the world will not speak very well of true believers. The Psalmist David said: “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth” (Psalm 37:12). This graphic scene actually took place in the New Testament Church when evil men gnashed (biting him with their teeth) on Deacon Stephen while killing him, making him the first martyr for the Church. (See Acts chapter 7 and especially verse 54.)
Our reactions to being persecuted are also addressed by Christ. We are told to be glad (exceeding) and rejoice (being thankful) for our reward after surviving persecutions will be the kingdom of heaven. Christ also let us know that we would be in good company when He reminded us that the prophets were persecuted too.
The Apostle Peter also addressed the subject of persecution along with what one’s attitude and reaction should be, using Christ as our supreme example. “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23).
Many religious people today imply that when one becomes a Christian, all his worries and troubles are over. In doing so they grossly misrepresent the Scriptures pertaining to bearing our cross for Christ’ sake. (See Matthew 16:24.). They make their converts to be the equivalent of the seed in the parable of Christ about the sower whose seed fell on stony ground (See Matt. 13: 20, 21). They did not endure when the test came.
Rejoicing and being glad while being persecuted is somewhat of a paradox but it is only possible when eternity is in view. Remember, Jesus said great would be our your reward in heaven. He endured persecution even unto death, but He did it with joy. Heb 12:2 states: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The great Apostle Paul also left us a worthy example when he said just before he was beheaded: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
In light of certain persecution and knowing what our proper response to it should be, and seeing others faithful testimony, what will our end result be? I trust that we can all experience receiving the great blessing of the kingdom of heaven.