In this fourth and final installment of this Bible study, we will continue to read through the Beatitudes looking for the unfiltered gospel message contained within the verses. Be sure to read Parts 1 through 3 of this Bible study series for more context and understanding. Be sure to read these verses in your own Bibles!!
Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:10)
If we claim to believe the Bible, then it is important for us to believe what Jesus Christ said without exception. Many of the things that Jesus taught are not easy to accept, but we must do so for our spiritual and mental health.
With these words, Jesus explains to His disciples that they will be persecuted. Jesus talks about the subject of persecution several times throughout the gospel accounts. He was warning His disciples of what was to come. The writers of the gospel accounts recorded these verses for those who were to follow them which is us. Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wanted all of us to know that those who follow the way of righteousness will be persecuted.
The parable of the sower and the seed discussed this topic. It is recorded in Matt. 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-18. In this parable, Jesus talks about four different types of places seed sowed can go (verse 4-8 in each version). The seed being sowed is the word of God (Mark 4:14 and Luke 8:11). These four scenarios are discussing how different types of people receive the word. There are some that fall by the wayside, some that fall on rocky ground, some that fall among weeds, and some that fall on good ground. Each one has a special meaning that Jesus explained to His disciples away from the crowd (Matt. 13:14-17).
Look at what Jesus says about the symbol of those who fall on rocky ground:
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” (Matt. 13:20-21)
Mark’s account says that this group of people “immediately receive it [the word] with gladness.” (Mark 4:16) This category receives the word of God gladly, but something happens to them after receiving it. Jesus indicates that tribulation or persecution arises. In the Greek, tribulation means pressure and persecution means persecution. Jesus is giving His disciples a warning with these words. He was telling them that pressure will come. Mark wrote that “affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake.” (Mark 4:17). Walking according to the word of God is not guaranteed to be a cake walk. Jesus was letting them know they will have to endure pressure. This applies to all of us. We must make sure that the word of God is deeply rooted in us. If it is not, when too much external pressure arises then the word will not remain with us.
If you have any experience with gardening, this analogy should make perfect sense to you. When a plant’s roots are exposed to the sun or hard winds, the plant will not survive for long. The word of God is the same when it is planted in you. Are you rocky ground or good ground?
Also notice that Matthew and Mark state that when this pressure arises many become offended. The word offended means to trip up i.e. fall in the Greek. This is the same as what Luke recorded. Luke wrote that those who symbolize rocky ground “in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). (Side note: Don’t allow anyone to tell you that the Bible contradicts itself. When you diligently study into the meaning of the original languages, you will see there is no contradiction at all. In this case, offended and fall away mean the same thing.)
If you receive the word of God, there will be pressure and persecution! This is an unavoidable reality. The seed that falls on good ground receives the same amount of sun (external pressure or persecution) as those that fall on rocky ground. The difference is that those in good ground can get rooted better than those on rocky ground. A plant that is well rooted can survive a lot better than plants with shallow roots. This is something that every gardener has known for thousands of years. Jesus says you are blessed if you experience this. Plants that endure the elements and survive tend to bare wonderful fruit for the gardener. This is what we observe in the lives all the saints written about in the Holy Bible.
You Are not Exempt from Persecution
It is necessary to belabor the point about persecution. Throughout the entire Bible, we see this repeated warning of persecution of the saints of God. This includes those of us who choose to follow the word of God during this time. Jesus warned His disciples of what was to befall them, and His disciples wrote about persecution to warn those to come. Let’s explore this further.
Read John chapter 6. This is one of the strongest warnings Jesus Christ gave about persecution. Notice what Jesus says to them at the end of the chapter.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 6:33).
Indeed, this is a fact that Jesus repeats in the Book of Revelation. Read Rev. 6:9-11; 7:13-14; 12:13-17; 17:6; and 20:4 as points of evidence. Remember the Book of Revelation is prophetic (Rev. 1:19). This means much of what was written was for the future. The apostle John was allowed to see what would come to pass in the world which included much persecution of God’s called out people. For this reason, it is written that we must overcome and endure several times in this book.
Also, notice what Paul said to Timothy.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
If you read through the book of Acts, you’ll see all the persecution the church of God suffered. Paul when writing to Timothy discussed this matter. He declared to Timothy that ALL who will live God’s way will suffer persecution. Paul didn’t lay out a list of exceptions. He vehemently declared that all who will live in Jesus Christ will suffer in this world. His message is the same as the Lord Jesus Christ’s message to His disciples. Knowing that you must suffer is not a pleasant thought; however, think of the tremendous reward promised to those who do. Read Rom. 8:16-18 for a look at this glorious promise.
Rejoice and Be Exceeding Glad!
Let’s return to Matthew chapter 5 to conclude this study.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)
Please notice how important these words are. Jesus is repeating Himself for our admonition. More importantly, He points us to the hope we should be focused on. He explains that our reward is in heaven. He tells us to rejoice and be exceeding glad!!! Rejoice means to be cheerful i.e. be calmly happy and be exceeding glad means to jump for joy. Jesus Christ says we are fortunate to be berated, pursued, and accused falsely for His sake. Though this may seem like a bad thing, Jesus is explaining that it is a blessing to experience these things. Jesus makes the same point in John 15:18-20. Be sure to read the previously mentioned verses!
It is a blessing to suffer after the manner of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should have calm happiness and at other times we should jump for joy. Why? Because there is a great reward waiting for those who suffer with Jesus Christ. Reread Rom. 8:16-18. Paul powerfully declares that we are the heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus if we suffer with Him! What is Jesus the heir to? He is the heir to David’s throne and the kingdom of God. If we suffer with Jesus Christ in this life, we will be glorified with Him! We shall be heirs of the kingdom of God, which is a literal kingdom that will rule over the entire earth. This is what the apostle Paul taught! This is what Jesus taught. This is the reward reserved in heaven for those who will follow God with all their heart. Read 1 Peter 1:3-4.
Unfortunately, too many teach that the reward of the saints is heaven, but your Bible makes it abundantly clear that the reward is reserved in heaven. The reward is a resurrection from the dead, the awakening to Jesus Christ’s return. At that time, God will give His saints a glorified body like Jesus Christ’s body and rulership over the earth. This is what your Bible teaches. Your Bible also teaches that the followers of Jesus Christ will suffer in this world until He return to establish a perfect system through the laws of God. Be sure to read about the 5th seal open by Jesus Christ in Rev. 6:9-11.
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. (1 Peter 3:14-16)
As we conclude this study, one final point must be made. The Lord Jesus Christ did not suffer so that we did not have to. His sacrifice was made so that we may be reconciled to God the Father. There are many verses testifying to the fact that those who will live godly will suffer persecution. Despite this fact, we are to be happy and able to explain the hope that is in us. This means the hope of the promised resurrection should be in us and it should affect our character. If your hope is really in the promises of God, then it will be evident by your actions. This is why Jesus and Peter talks about being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. This great hope will stir you to righteousness because we know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Consequently, the unrighteous world will persecute you for living in the way of righteous as they did the Lord Jesus Christ.
As you strive to live godly while receiving persecution in this world, remember that the reward of the saints is tremendous. Remember that God the Father and Jesus Christ have promised to give you a life incomparable with this physical life. There a is new body, a crown, and throne waiting for you! God has promised an adoption into His family! This is where your hope should be!!!
Blessed are they who are pursued, defamed, and taunted for seeking God’s righteousness: for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Be cheerful and jump for joy despite suffering persecution: for great is your reward which is reserved in heaven.