Being persecuted doesn’t seem like an honor, but in the eighth Beatitude Jesus gives those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake a fabulous promise!
The Beatitudes describe characteristics that are the essence of the Christian way of life. They are traits we should internalize to the deepest core of our beings. Doing so will change us—make us different from who we were and from the world around us.
If we are living by the Beatitudes, then we will not just blend in with the crowd. If we live a godly lifestyle, it will be impossible to not stand out from everyone living the way of the world.
And this difference can bring hardship. Being different, especially in a godly way, can bring persecution.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake
In the final Beatitude, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
This is a promise of blessing for those who suffer for doing the right thing. Jesus warned that His followers would face persecution since, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
Notice that the blessing in Matthew 5:10 is promised to those who are persecuted for “righteousness’ sake,” not to those who are persecuted because of their sins or their lack of tact. We must be sure that we speak the truth in love and not in a wrong way that will bring negative attention to ourselves or those who share our beliefs (Ephesians 4:15). God is not impressed if we are persecuted because of something bad we have done, but when we have done what is right (1 Peter 2:20).
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The promise to those who are persecuted for living God’s way of life is the same as the promise to the poor in spirit that started the list. The Kingdom of Heaven is one of the central promises of the Bible.
Prophecy reveals that God is now calling people to be kings and priests in the greatest Kingdom ever (Revelation 5:10)!Prophecy reveals that God is now calling people to be kings and priests in the greatest Kingdom ever (Revelation 5:10)! It won’t be a temporary kingdom that fades away with time or that is conquered by a rival kingdom. It will encompass the entire earth forever (Daniel 2:44-45).
Belief in this promise makes it possible to endure persecution. “For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). For more about this essential factor of faith, see our article “How to Grow in Faith.”
The way of man
As a general rule, no one wants to be persecuted. Those who have responded to God’s calling now, however, can deal with it better by focusing on the reward and taking joy when they are considered worthy to suffer persecution for God’s name (Acts 5:41; James 1:2-3).
The average person doesn’t have that reaction when persecution comes. To many, persecution is to be avoided at all costs. For some, that cost will even include betraying others who trusted them (Matthew 24:10).
A more common response to persecution is compromise and abandoning one’s principles. This was illustrated by King Saul, who disobeyed God to gain favor with the people (1 Samuel 15:18-23). When persecution starts, people find it easy to rush back to the comfort of the world and to abandon God’s way of life.
What being persecuted for righteousness’ sake looks like
Persecution can take many forms. It includes being harassed or ostracized for your religious beliefs. Christians have also undergone excruciating pain and great personal suffering for God’s truth.
In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul listed some of his trials and sufferings, ranging from prison stays to being beaten and stoned (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
As the centuries went by, the persecution didn’t get any easier. Christians have been kicked out of their homes, slaughtered in villages, even fed to lions and burned at the stake!
In the modern Western world, persecution generally takes the form of a lost job, being bullied or facing harassment at work or school. In some areas of the world, however, becoming a follower of Christ carries the death penalty, and Bible prophecy shows such violent persecution will spread all around the world in the end time. Jesus Christ prophesied about a time that will be worse than any other, and this includes the persecution of His people (Matthew 24:21). For more about this coming age of terror, read our article “The Great Tribulation.”
A time is coming when the persecution of God’s Church will once again be so severe that it will be a matter of life or death—and some will die as martyrs for His name.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you
Jesus followed His eighth Beatitude with further explanation: “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 5:11-12).
Other passages show this reward is “reserved in heaven” to be “revealed in the last time” at “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:4-5, 7). This will occur at Christ’s return, since He said, “I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me” (Revelation 22:12).
In Matthew 5:11, Jesus switched from discussing “those who are persecuted” to blessing “you”—making this section the most personal.
Dictionary.com defines revile as “to speak abusively.” This persecution starts with words—the mocking, the humiliation, the sneering and the insults.
At times reviling can come from those we deem our closest companions. The harshest criticism and verbal abuse can come from those of our own country (Matthew 13:57) or even our own family (John 7:3-5).
Historically, people following God have been the victims of lies. This has happened to such biblical heroes as Daniel (Daniel 6:4-5), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:5-8), and even Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:60). In the future such lies will also be used to justify persecution and will become propaganda that adds further persecution.
The prophets knew persecution
Jesus made an allusion to the prophets who were persecuted beforehand. These prophets include men such as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Malachi and John the Baptist.
The prophets went through horrendous and intense persecutions. Moses was ridiculed by an entire nation and even his own family at times (Numbers 12:1-2). Samuel was rejected by the nation and at one point was fearful for his life (1 Samuel 16:2). Elijah was hunted by wicked Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2-3). Elisha was hunted down by an entire army (2 Kings 6:12-14). Jeremiah was imprisoned at the bottom of a muddy well (Jeremiah 38:6). Daniel was the victim of a jealous conspiracy and was thrown to the lions (Daniel 6).
John the Baptist was beheaded for calling out the king for disobeying God’s law (Matthew 14:3-11). Jesus Christ Himself went through an excruciating death because of our sins.
All of these prophets have an incredible reward waiting for them. When giving an illustration of what the Kingdom of God would be like, Jesus showed a vision of Himself with the prophets Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-3). Jesus Christ’s vision of the Kingdom showed the prophets—resurrected and in spiritual bodies—talking with their Creator!
The same destiny is promised to us if we endure persecution. We can be in the Kingdom of God, enjoying the chance to be with the Savior of the world and to talk with Him as we do with our closest friends!
Jesus Christ’s experience with being persecuted for righteousness’ sake
Jesus Christ knew about being reviled, persecuted and lied about. Jesus Christ knew about being reviled, persecuted and lied about. His whole life was an experience in persecution. Due to His miraculous birth, some considered Him a shameful, illegitimate Child (John 8:41). As He started His ministry, His family and neighbors mocked Him. The religious leaders of the day constantly attacked Him verbally and sought to trap Him in some way.
On the last day of His life, Jesus experienced the full depths of being reviled and persecuted. One of His closest friends betrayed Him for a bag of silver, and then the rest of His friends abandoned Him on the evening of His arrest (Matthew 26:47-56). Afterward He went through a series of trials before the high priest, the Sanhedrin, Herod and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. During these interrogations, He was the victim of several slanderous lies, as well as physical and verbal abuse at the hands of His captors.
Through all of this, Jesus Christ endured. He stood strong by focusing on the reward promised to Him (Hebrews 12:2). Instead of focusing on the pain of the moment, Jesus Christ kept His eyes firmly set on His future in the Kingdom of God.
If we are to be among those who are blessed for being reviled, persecuted and lied about, then we must endure by keeping our eyes on the wonderful promises God has given us throughout the Beatitudes and the rest of the Bible.
For further study of God’s promises, see “God’s Promises: Rock-Solid Hope and Assurance.”