This is part of what is commonly called the Beatitudes – as found in Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes show us how to live as Christians in this world.
Each one is written in the same pattern, with a blessing given to the one who is seeking to live by them. The last of these is found in verse 10 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
This is the only Beatitude in which Jesus goes on to expand His teaching by saying in verse 11 and 12 – “Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you, and say all manner 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.”
Let’s look at the rewards or blessings which belong to those who are persecuted. Jesus tells us that “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” and “great is their reward in heaven.” Each blessing given as a gift from God in each beatitude is priceless but the blessings He gives through persecution are even more so and cause us to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”
Jesus warns us not to be surprised when persecution comes. In Matthew 10:22, He says “You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
He also promises “In this world you will have tribulation but I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
In a recent survey, statistics show that Christians are the most persecuted group of people worldwide. Even those in the so-called peaceful religions are rising up against Christians in many nations. Sad to say even within the Church persecution arises – brother against brother; sister against sister!
What can we, who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, do when faced with persecution? The simple answer is to stand firmly on God’s holy word. We need to hide God’s word in our hearts and be ready when necessary to speak Biblical truth into situations we find ourselves in, regardless of consequences that may come our way. Like Jesus, when facing the religious leaders at His trial, there will be times we need to be silent.
When we are confronted with hostile words or actions, we need to respond where at all possible in the opposite spirit.
We also need to know what lies behind persecution and that is the Evil One – Satan, whom Jesus describes as the father of lies.
We read in Ephesians 6:12 – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
This means that behind all hostile words, actions, and persecutions Satan is working to destroy relationships, churches, and nations.
We can stand firm in the midst of trouble only when we know the One who is Truth and Light. 1 John 1:7 – ” If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
When words are spoken against us, falsely, we remember how Jesus suffered much persecution – in many forms – throughout His ministry.
Isaiah 53 speaks of His suffering. Verse 3 –”He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. Verse 5 – “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed.”
Our journey towards our heavenly home (now being prepared for us by Jesus –John 14:2), is well described in the wonderful classic, Pilgrim’s Progress.
It describes the many pitfalls on this journey and the obstacles Christians encounter along the way. The path is difficult but the rewards that await us in heaven will be well worth anything we have suffered here on earth.
We will have companions to walk this pilgrim way with us who will encourage us when the going is rough and steep and help us through the many obstacles we encounter.
There will also be those who will discourage us and tempt us to take an easier road (the road of compromise) that is less steep but leads away from the heavenly city.
Above all, we have the sure word of God as our foundation to make sure our feet do not slip and the blessed Holy Spirit as our strength and our guide, to bring us safely through the narrow gate that leads to LIFE.