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Matthew 5:10-12 by Robert Dean
How's this for a promise from the Word of God? If you are a disciple of Christ, growing and maturing spiritually, you can be absolutely certain that you will suffer unjustly for what you believe. Listen to this lesson to see how you should rejoice and be glad when you are mistreated for your Christian beliefs because it means you will be richly rewarded in Heaven. Learn the importance of hanging in there during suffering and being willing to accept the loss of everything today because of your future role in the kingdom of God.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:44 mins 47 secs

How to be Happy - Part 7. Persecution and Rewards in Heaven
Matthew 5:10-12
Matthew Lesson #024
February 23, 2014

As we come to Matthew 5:10-12 we come to a topic that is not always pleasant and one that often seems to be a little bit incongruous. We are told here to be happy when we are persecuted unjustly. The reason given is that there is a future destiny. In a real sense this deals with that broad topic, part of a spiritual stress buster: living today in light of eternity. Nothing perhaps puts as much pressure on us in terms of external adversity as dealing with people or systems that that are specifically hostile or antagonistic to us simply because we are Christians attempting to live the Christian life. So the motivation for us that is given here is related to our future destiny in the kingdom. It is specifically stated in verse 12 to be related to rewards in heaven and come in a section in the Sermon on the Mount between verse 3 and verse 16 of this chapter and dealing with the character and calling of those who would inherit the kingdom. The opening of the Sermon on the Mount in terms of these beatitudes is to describe the character of those who will rule and reign with Christ when He comes in His kingdom.

Every person who believes in Jesus Christ will be in the kingdom, but not every believer will have the same privileges and responsibilities. There are several phrases that are used to describe the enjoyment of those blessings in the millennial kingdom. One phrase that is used in an ambiguous sense, used sometimes to refer to what we would call getting saved or justified, phase one, but at other times also used to refer to a fuller, richer experience in the future kingdom; the phrase, "entering the kingdom". In Acts 14:22 the apostle Paul told his audience that it is through many sufferings that we enter the kingdom. Entering the kingdom in that passage can't be the same as getting saved, phase one, because a) it is very clear Paul is talking to believers, they already have a secure future destiny in heaven, and b) he is talking to them about the Christian life. They are already saved, he is not talking to them about getting into heaven. When he says "we enter into heaven by suffering" he is not talking about works. If he was talking about justification in that passage then it would mean we would have a salvation by works; those who weren't willing to suffer with Jesus wouldn't be getting into the kingdom. So entering the kingdom in many passages is a term for entering into the full riches of the blessings of future destiny that God has for us.

Another phrase that is used is "inheriting the kingdom". It has to do with possession in the kingdom. And then another phrase often used is one that is talking about "rewards in heaven". The rewards that we are given at the judgment seat of Christ will have something to do with our future role and responsibility in the kingdom. So this whole section focuses us and challenges us with the fact that not only does God expect us to trust in Christ so that we have an eternal relationship with Him, but that we need to grow and mature in that relationship so that we can be prepared for that future destiny that He has for us.

This is related to a number of things but in the last beatitude it is related to how we handle suffering. Joy in the midst of suffering, joy in the midst of unjust accusation and unjust persecution is not the normal human response. In the history of human philosophy there have been two primary ways in which human beings try to handle unjust suffering. The first is that we are to embrace it for itself and not avoid it. This would be exemplified, for example, in the ancient philosophy of stoicism. You just adopt a stiff upper lip, endure it and bear it and go forward. But it is embracing something without joy. The other view is to avoid suffering at all costs. This would be exemplified by the ancient philosophy of the epicureans. You just pursue personal pleasure in life and avoid any kind of personal suffering, so you have joy but no suffering. In the biblical view of how we embrace suffering we embrace it because it has a purpose in God's plan. And we are to embrace it with joy, not because we are masochists, not because we enjoy the fact that we are going through suffering, but because we understand that it plays a role in our future destiny. Suffering today has a purpose in relationship to eternity.

Matthew 5:10-12 NASB “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when {people} insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

This is our challenge. We are to recognize that happiness is ours if we are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Some observations about this passage that will help us to understand the implication and application for us today:

This is the last of the beatitudes and it is composed of a double blessing statement. The second blessing statement expands on the first blessing statement and helps us to understand it. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" is expanded in verse 11: "Blessed are you when {people} insult you and persecute you". So he avoiding people thinking that it is just thinking about physical suffering but also the suffering that comes through slander, libel, from some form of verbal abuse because of our faith in Christ. Persecuted for righteousness' sake is developed in the second statement as being persecuted for Christ's sake—"for My sake [Me]". He is equating being persecuted for righteousness sake with Himself. He is identifying Himself as the physical God-Man who manifests to the human race perfect righteousness. For righteousness sake and for My sake are parallel. Christ is the embodiment of perfect righteousness. So we see here that the persecution that we are talking about is not just going through general suffering, general hostility, but hostility that is directed towards our faith in Christ and our stand for the gospel. This is indicated by the preposition that is used in both of these passages. It is not a common preposition in Greek but is one that clearly states the cause or the reason for something. So, "Blessed are those who because of righteousness sake …" – those who are persecuted because of Christ's sake. This emphasizes the basis for persecution.

This parallel shows the significance of Jesus. He is saying that of we are persecuted for being a disciple of Jesus it shows that the world in some sense sees Jesus as being significant. The world sees Jesus as being significant otherwise it wouldn't be so upset and react with such hostility toward us. So it shows that the world, no matter what it may say about Jesus—denigrate Him and say he was just another human being and somehow try to minimize His significance—the fact that the world persecutes those who follow Jesus shows that they recognize Jesus' significance. Not too many people are seen trying to persecute Hindus or Buddhists because of their faith.

According to what Jesus says here God will reward us for enduring unjust persecution because of Jesus. If God is going to reward us for suffering for Jesus' sake then this shows how significant Jesus is in God's eyes: that Jesus is more significant than any other human being. Being persecuted for Jesus' sake shows that God has a higher view of Jesus than anyone who is just a man.

Jesus compares His representatives/disciples with the prophets of the Old Testament. The prophets of the Old Testament represented God. So if Jesus' disciples are persecuted in the same way that God's representatives are persecuted then this shows how significant Jesus viewed Himself. He is making a subtle argument here for His deity. There is a parallel between the prophets of God in the Old Testament who represent God and the disciples of the New Testament who represent Jesus. If the disciples are compared to the prophets of God then Jesus is analogous to God and He is making a subtle claim to His deity in this passage. This is significant because people really only have three options as to how they view Jesus. Many people think that Jesus was a good man. Some people think He was a social revolutionary. There are various Marxist interpretations of Jesus as someone who going to the aid of the downtrodden or the poor. But what we see in Scripture is that Jesus represents Himself again and again as being equal to God and being God Himself. Jesus presents Himself as the second person of the Trinity. And so we are left with three options: Jesus is telling the truth or He is telling a lie. Basically that is the argument. If He is telling the truth, that He is the Son of God, the eternal second person of the Trinity, we should follow Him to the utmost. If He is telling a lie then He is either deceiving people intentionally or He is self-deceived. So either Jesus is the Lord of heaven as He claimed to be, or He is a liar, or He is a lunatic. Those are the three options; there are no other.

Jesus is giving an explanation of how persecution is related to happiness and joy. He states this twice: that it is related to future inheritance and rewards in heaven. When He used the statement "blessed", using the Greek word MAKARIOS, what He is talking about is happiness, joy, an inner tranquility and peace and contentment that is not related to circumstances. In fact, it is just the opposite of what we expect because of the circumstances. The circumstances are horrible, they involve personal physical suffering, torture, mental abuse, emotional abuse, hostility, resentment, rejection, slander, libel; all of the things that we can possibly think of are involved in the term persecution. Persecution can come in a variety of different forms but whenever we think of going through these kinds of circumstances perhaps the last thing we think of is embracing it with exultation and joy. And yet as we look at verse 12 what Jesus commands through these present tense imperatives—which means this should characterize our life all the time—is that we are to rejoice and be exceedingly glad. This is the same thing James says in 1:2-4 NASB "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have {its} perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Endurance is not stated in the Matthew passage but in other passages endurance is the other element in how we are to handle and face suffering and adversity which includes persecution. We are to endure it, hang in there, not fade out, not compromise our biblical principles or the commands of Christ; we are to endure with joy and with exultation because we know something.

In verse 10 we are told that we are happy if we are persecuted for righteousness' sake for … that word "for" indicates an explanation. How can we have joy in the midst of persecution? We have to understand its purpose. Those who have the persecution will have the kingdom of God. Notice in the text the first beatitude back in verse three states, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven". It is the same statement that we find in the last beatitude. What this does in terms of showing us the literary structure here is that this is a tightly organized and composed message and Jesus is framing it in what in literature would be called an inclusio, where He brackets the doctrine at the beginning and at the end with the same statement, showing that all of this teaching is an integrated whole and it is in unity. So He begins with the statement talking about "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" and concludes with the last beatitude "theirs is the kingdom of heaven". 

This shows us again—because "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" is explained further with the statement in verse 12 of reward in heaven—that He is talking to believers about being prepared for the judgment seat of Christ and the rewards that we will receive their in light of our future destiny. So we are to live today in light of eternity; we are to live in light of these rewards and inheritance, and that is to be a motivation for us. There is nothing wrong with that. There are some people who think there is something wrong with obeying God and being motivated by future rewards. The future rewards are not something that is accruing to us in an analogy with personal wealth, accruing something for us. What we receive in terms of rewards is produced in us through God the Holy Spirit, not through selfish motivation. But we want those rewards because that will glorify God. The motivation is not self-centered; it is God-centered. So we are to live our lives in light of our future destiny in the kingdom.

The question we ought to ask ourselves each morning is: how am I going to live today in light of my future destiny in heaven? How am I going to organize my life today in light of my destiny in Christ and God's training program for me today? Am I going to live today conforming to His training program, or am I going to live in opposition to it.

So Jesus as He expands the principles here explains that today in real time we are to have joy and happiness because we live in light of eternity: that it doesn't matter what the current circumstances are, what the hostility is that we may be facing because we are a Christian. That can come in any number of contexts. It can happen suddenly at the office, in some sort of social environment, within a marriage in a situation where there is a mixed marriage and the unbeliever is hostile to the Christianity of the believer. It has also happened within families. Children have become Christians and come under persecution from their parents who were not believers and were hostile to Christ.

Persecution is one form of suffering, but it is a form of suffering that is specifically related to a person's stand for the truth of the gospel and the Christian way of life. We live in the devil's world, a fallen world, and because of that we often will go through suffering. There is a lot of suffering in this world but this is not talking about suffering in general, this is talking about a specific form of suffering that involves persecution. There are two uses of the term "persecution" in this passage. The first is used as a perfect passive participle in verse10 where Jesus said: "Blessed are those who are persecuted". That is used as a participle and it is interesting because it is a perfect participle, which refers to completed action—those who have been persecuted. So the focus is really on future reward. Even embedded within that sense of the word it is viewed as if this is already completed and the focus is on that future reality of the kingdom of heaven.

The second use comes in verse 11: "those who revile and persecute you". This is an aorist active subjunctive, which indicates that the action of persecution is probable. It is a future probability and must be taken into account. The concept of persecution indicates opposition and hostility.

We need to understand that persecution is one form of suffering but the persecution specifically relates to our testimony and our stand for Christ. A second observation about persecution is that persecution may be passive or active. By passive is meant that we may not even be aware of it in our lives. It may be the fact that we are overlooked for a promotion, something good that might come our way in terms of some area of life, many different areas where, for example, somebody says they don't want them to do it because they are a Christian. We may not even be aware that we are going through that kind of persecution for Christ's sake. But this word that is used here usually refers in the Scriptures for an active form of persecution where people are abused verbally, reviled, slandered, ridiculed, lies are told about them, they are rejected and face a certain amount of hostility because they are a Christian and because of their stand for Christ. It may even go so far as to involve physical torture and death because of being a Christian.

Christian persecution exists all around us. In fact last week on the 13th February a Christian rapper in Houston came out with a rap song that took issue with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and ever since has come under a tremendous amount of verbal, abuse. He took his stand because of his position as a believer in Christ. We are going to see that kind of suffering in that area, I believe, much more in the Christian community in coming years because this has become a standard of whether or not you are an open accepting individual or a horrible cretin that has no place in American society. So if you don't accept same-sex marriage then you are going to be an enemy of the culture around us. This is one way in which we will face hostility.

Let me challenge some of you. You may be working in a career where you are in human resources and you are going to be responsible for supporting and promoting policies that are mandated at a Federal Government level in relation to same-sex marriage, and you are going to have to decide whether you are going to be a disciple for Christ and take a stand or whether you are going to compromise on that particular issue. And it is not always going to be the same. You are going to have to use creativity in some areas where you may not have to leave that position of employment, but there will be situation where you are going to have to. You are going to have to have biblical wisdom to know how to face and handle those situations, but the bottom line is you are going to have to not compromise your stand for Christ and their may be loss involved.

On the other hand, there are many examples of Christians in other countries who are arrested and tortured because of their faith in Christ. There are numerous stories about Christians who are suffering for their faith in predominantly Muslim countries. Persecution is very much a reality for Christians in much of the world, if not in our personal experience.

Scripture goes on to say other things about persecution in Matthew chapter five. Jesus is going to expand on this and say that we are to love our enemies, and "bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." This is something that cannot be generated from our own sin nature. The only way in which we can fulfill this is if we are walking by God the Holy Spirit. But notice that this is not just a passive mental attitude of loving somebody from a distance. This involves action in relation to the person who is intentionally and overtly hostile to us. It is doing good to them when they are going to slap us in the face for doing it. Whether that is metaphorical or literal will depend on the circumstances. This is merely an expression in our life though of the love of God for us. God provided a savior for us, as Paul says in Romans 5:8, "in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". The classic example would be the apostle Paul who as Saul of Tarsus was persecuting believers, and when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus He said to him: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" There we see the exemplification of God's love and grace to those who are actively in opposition. On the cross Jesus said: "Father for give them [those who were crucifying Him] for they know not what they do". So the only way in which we can do this is if we are walking by the Spirit and God the Holy Spirit is producing this character change within us.

Jesus also taught that because He was persecuted we should expect persecution. John 15:20 NASB "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also." So as believers we should expect at times that we, too, will go through suffering and opposition because of our faith in Christ.

Rom 12:14 NASB "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Again, this runs counter to our sin nature. We want to react in hostility and vindictiveness, and yet we are to respond with blessing and with help to those who are opposed to us.

1 Corinthians 4:12 NASB "and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; [13] when we are slandered, we try to conciliate …"

2 Timothy 3:12 NASB "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." That is, if you desire to live a spiritual life and live to spiritual maturity then you will suffer persecution. But we have the promise of Matthew chapter five that we will reap eternal rewards because of that.

Hebrews 10:32 NASB "But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings". The writer is writing to Jewish believers, probably priests, who had trusted Jesus as Messiah and as a result of that went through a lot of persecution from the Jewish community in Judea. [33] "partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated." That last part would be suffering by association. [34] "For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one."

What is the motivation there? The motivation is that you are willing to accept the loss of everything in your life today. Because we know that this is nothing. We have an enduring and eternal possession in heaven that cannot be taken away.  Hebrews 10:35, 36 NASB "Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promise." We have need of endurance, not just joy and exultation.

It is not selfish to endure because we know that God is going to bring proper restitution. We live today not for today. We want justification and we want God to provide restitution but the restitution, we are told, will come in heaven.

Luke 14:14 NASB "and you will be blessed, since they do not have {the means} to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

We live today in light of eternity. Our response to persecution and hostility is to rejoice, to be happy, and to endure because we have a future reward in heaven.