“Reward for the Persecuted”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.10-12
Mathew 5. It is widely believed that Christian persecution is worse today than at any other time in history. In 2016, as many as 600,000 Christians may have suffered some form of persecution for their faith around the world.
In Iraq, the Christian population declined from 275,000 in mid-2015 to below 200,000 two years later – and possibly as few as 150,000, the report says, warning that “if this decline were to continue at the same rate, it would show that” the previous report’s “prediction of a virtual wipe-out of Iraq’s Christian community by 2020 remains on track.”
According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ. 
North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Eritrea are each in the extreme persecution category according to opendoorsusa.org. North Korea has been number one for 13 years because it is illegal to be a Christian. If you’re caught, you are sent to labor camps or killed.
Each month on average, 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches are destroyed each month, and 772 violent acts are committed against Christians.
Our Reality Today
And the religious climate in our country is changing rapidly. How many of us if we were to start preaching against homosexuality on the street … how soon would we be put in jail?
What will sustain persecuted believers in their persecution? The answer lies in Jesus’ pronouncement in Matthew 5:10-12
Matthew 5:10–12 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Uniqueness of this beatitude
This is the last of the eight beatitudes and this one is unique. You’ll notice that it is longer and that there are two occurrences of the word “blessed.” “Blessed” occurs at the beginning of verse 10 and 11. But yet this is one pronouncement of blessing. The reason for that is because first of all, the end of verse 10 is the same as the end of verse 3. The first Beatitudes ends the same way the last beatitude does: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. First and last beatitude then form as it were bookends, showing the first and the last, and what is in the middle.
Second, we know this is one beatitude because the topic is the same in verses 10 and 11: we’re talking about persecution in both verses.
Some may ask then, “why does the word blessed occurred twice?” And the answer to that could be a number of things: perhaps since it is difficult to understand paradox of the blessing of persecution, Jesus emphasizes it with two occurrences of “blessed.” Or perhaps it occurs twice because those who are persecuted get a double blessing.
TRANS: That leads us to consider the difficulty of this beatitude.
Difficulty of this beatitude
This beatitude, out of all them, is perhaps the most difficult to accept. Blessing for the persecuted? I would never want to be persecuted! … But we have to remind ourselves that these Beatitudes are a package deal.
You either have them all on your track record or you don’t. It’s not that some Christians have a personality where they mourn over their sin and others are more likely to hunger and thirst after righteousness. However, if you want to follow Christ, it’s not that you can pick which one you want. No, these describe all Christians. And so persecution is just as much a part of being a Christian as is poverty of spirit, or mourning over your sin, or hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This is a difficult beatitude, especially in our day. Are you or have you ever been persecuted?
And as we have seen and studied, one beatitude leads to the next. The poor in spirit, mourn over that poverty. And because of their mourning, they want to be gentle or meek toward God; they want to be controlled by him. And on and on.
It is interesting then, that right before persecution is the peacemaker! How strange! So we have to conclude then that true peacemaking won’t exactly be successful every single time. Jesus was the most peaceful and loving of all! Yet His life and ministry made many enemies.
True peacemaking makes enemies as well. What would happen if you try to make peace with someone who wants no peace. What happens if you try to make peace between someone and God… To reconcile them to God, and to do that, you lovingly explain that they’re a sinner! To say the least, that might not go over very well!
What may happen then is you may be persecuted.
Pronouncement: Blessed are the Persecuted
But Christian persecution is not referring to Christians who are persecuted simply because they are difficult to get along with… Or, “Blessed are the foolish and unwise Christians because they keep angrily hammering unbelievers over the head with the Bible.”
1 Peter 4:15–16 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
This is not pronouncing blessing on those who are overzealous fanatics who annoy their persecutors to death. We’re to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves… Not harmful like serpents. Some unfortunately get that verse mixed up.
Jesus is not even saying, “blessed are they who are persecuted because of some principle or cause, whether political or religious. Just because you are suffering because of something that you believe or do doesn’t mean you are qualified for the blessing of this verse.
And whatever Jesus is talking about, it applies to all Christians. The flow of the Beatitudes … that one beatitude leads to the next idea … tells us that this verse does apply to all Christians. But other passages as well prove that all Christians suffer persecution.
Matthew 10:16 16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves..” Wolves eat sheep.
Matthew 10:22 22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” Does anyone hate you? Because Jesus said …
Luke 6:26 26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” That’s hard to swallow.
Matthew 10:25 25 “If they [the world] have called the head of the house [which is Jesus…if the world calls Jesus] Beelzebul [i.e., Lord of filth], how much more [not just equal, but how much more] will they malign the members of his household!” Jesus’ followers are maligned, mistreated.
Mark 10:29–30 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms [referring to coming into the church and receiving support from giving Christians but Jesus says along with that comes], … persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” Those who follow Jesus are persecuted.
1 Thessalonians 3:4 4 “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” Paul knew he would suffer affliction; believers should expect it.
John 15:18 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
2 Timothy 3:12 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Now, Christians do not experience persecution at every moment of every single day. Although if you’ve never experienced nor ever experience persecution, it does call into question whether you are a Christian. The world hates Jesus. The world hates followers of Jesus. If the world does not hate you, are you a follower of Jesus?
TRANS: Somebody asks, “Well, why would people want to persecute Christians? What would make them want to do that?” 2 causes, 2 reasons why others may persecute you.
Causes of persecution
For the sake of righteousness
Jesus says in verse 10 blessed are those who have been persecuted … “For the sake of righteousness.” People want to persecute Christians because Christians are righteous and the persecutors aren’t.
To be righteous is simply to conform to a standard. In the immediate context, righteousness refers to the other Beatitudes. Verse 3….The world simply does not tolerate those who could be described as being poor in spirit. That runs totally contrary to the proud self sufficient unbelieving heart.
To mourn over sin verse 4… No, the world rejoices in its sin. The world does not tolerate morning over sin.
To be gentle or better meek toward God also is not tolerated. The unbeliever thinks himself to be the master of his own destiny, one who pulls himself up by his bootstraps, the self-made man or woman. To be controlled by God runs totally contrary to the world and is not tolerated.
To hunger and thirst…for sex, money, or pleasure … yes, but righteousness? Give me a break! How lame is that, the world says.
And to be merciful embarrasses those who aren’t; to be pure and honest and upright and transparent, this rebukes the swindler, the “get ahead at any cost” kind of person. That is not tolerated. And neither is being a peacemaker… the peacemaker will insist that worldlings be right with God and repent of their sin and get right with other people… That is not tolerated.
So if you want to avoid persecution, go ahead and fit in with the world. Act like them, go to their parties, celebrate the things that they celebrate, don’t witness for Christ and don’t act like Him, and don’t bring His words to bear on the situation.
Because of Jesus
Jesus also points out a second cause or reason for persecution. Verse 11, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you … Here it is… Because of me.” It is not just that you do right for the sake of doing right, but you practice righteousness because you are a Chris-follower … because you have have identified yourself with Jesus…you do right because of Jesus.
And you have made a bold claim to being a disciple of Christ. You don’t hide it, but you wisely testify to your following of Christ and live like a disciple of Christ and tell others about Him. And if for this you are persecuted, blessed are you.
TRANS: But somebody says, “Well, I haven’t had my property stolen or been burned at the stake.” So, what is the persecution that Jesus speaks of?
What persecution is
Jesus says verse 10, “blessed are those who have been persecuted.” … What is persecution? Keep reading verse 11 Blessed are you when people …here it is… “Insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you.”
Define persecute and other words.
The word persecute carries the idea of pursue, to run after with intensity. It can be both positive and negative. In this case obviously it is negative. This persecution would be somebody running you out of town, firing you from your job because you are a Christian, chasing after you or pursuing you in order to do some kind of harm to you. When they show up at your door, when they call you on the phone and do the things they do say the things that they say. They chase after you to harm you.
The other two words “insult” and “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” … are clearly verbal attacks.
“Insult” has the idea of to rail, to revile, to assail with abusive words. This is what the thieves did to Jesus when the three of them were on crosses. They were insulting him … They were saying things similar to what the chief priests were saying when they said mockingly, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him….HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
And Peter states specifically…
1 Peter 4:14 If you are reviled [or insulted like that] for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
This is when someone makes fun of you because you trust Jesus or they mock you for being a Bible thumper, they mock you for your stand for Christ, they can’t believe that you believe that God created the world in six literal days, and slam you for not going along with them in their sin, or when you speak out in some kind of public forum and give a word for Christ and they insult you.
1 Peter 4:4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of wickedness, and they slander you…
This persecution can also come in the form of what Jesus says … When they “falsely say all kinds of evil against you.” They make things up about you, they lie to others about how pious you act… They will say that you don’t like to have any fun, they will charge you with false motives, malign your character in public.
The early church was accused of immorality because they have what they called “love feasts” but they were truly loving feasts with a meal and Christian love. Nero in AD 64 blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and Christians were blamed for the Orlando terror attack in 2016. It hasn’t stopped and never will.
Being reviled, insulted can come from different sources … the world,
1 John 3:13 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
Insults and false charges can come from governments,
Mark 13:9 9 “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.
religious people may even kill you
John 16:2 “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” Islam today is one of the primary influences of killing Christians.
… and family and friends.
Matthew 10:21 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.
Matthew 10:36 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
How many families have there been where there is an unbelieving husband and a believing wife and the wife is mocked for her following Christ?
They did this to Jesus…
Well, they did this to Jesus …
John 7:7 7 “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” The world hated Jesus because He pronounced those living in it that they are sinners.
John 8:48, the Jews insulted Jesus saying he was Samaritan and had a demon. They call him the son of fornication, and a sinner John 9:24. At his trial they even hired false witnesses, Matt. 26:60…
They also did this to Paul: he was beaten, lashed, and abused, but he was also spoken against. Acts 24 he was accused of desecrating the temple, which was not true…. And in 2 Corinthians 10:10, even Christians are making fun of Paul’s physical appearance and speaking ability. Other Christians were even preaching Christ selfishly to cause Paul distress when he was in prison, Philippians 1:17.
So the worst persecution, as D. Martin Lloyd Jones points out, can come at the hands of the church… And by religious people. “It has often come from nominal Christians” Jones says, which is a Christian in name only. And beyond that, even those who knew the Bible the best persecuted Jesus the most: the scribes and Pharisees!
They did it to Jesus, they will do it to His followers.
…They will do it to us.
“If they hated Me, they will hate you” Jesus says.
Have you been misrepresented? Has your position been exaggerated? have your words been twisted? Have you been mocked at work; has someone in your family made fun of you, have they been angry with you because of Jesus? Has someone, whose animated body is found inside the four walls of a church on a Sunday, insulted you or mocked you or spoken badly about you behind your back and they are glad they did it?
You may not have been put in a cage and burned, you may not have been crucified, you may still have all your limbs and all your property, but Jesus specifically points to the verbal assaults as persecution as well.
TRANS: now, if this is you and you have experienced this kind of persecution at some point in your Christian life for the sake of following Jesus or for the sake of being like him or for the sake of speaking for Him, this is an evidence that you’re a Christian. Never experiencing any form of persecution may very well negate your profession. You may not be taking a stand for Christ because you don’t know Him. Know Him!
If this is you Jesus has His pledge for you!
The Pledge: Reward in the Kingdom
Verse 10, “Yours is the kingdom of heaven.” You get nothing less than the kingdom of heaven!
Verse 12, rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
For theirs is the kingdom
Their reward is great
Reason: in the same way they persecuted the prophets
Jesus associates you with the prophets of old.
Examples in the Bible
For example, when Cain killed Abel because Abel’s deeds were righteous. The very first physical death was murder for nothing else other than the victim was righteous.
Moses was persecuted by the people of Israel for following the LORD, grievously so. David, because he was following the Lord, was persecuted by King Saul… Think of the persecution of the prophet Elijah and how he was pursued by that wicked Queen Jezebel… And there’s Jeremiah who, because he was preaching God’s word, was thrown down into a well… And Daniel prayed to the LORD three times a day in full view, though it was outlawed, and was thrown into the lion’s den.
Jesus associates those persecuted today with men like that…this great cloud of witnesses, as Hebrews 12 calls them.
Hebrews 11:36–38 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. …. men of whom the world was not worthy!
And Jesus counts the persecuted among them …what an honor!
Matthew 5:12 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for [if you are insulted, persecuted, or spoken of falsely] in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
TRANS: Now, what ought our response be?
Response: Rejoice and be glad
Matthew 5:12 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;
That’s how we should respond! Rejoice and be glad!
Persecution is indeed a cause for exultation, rejoicing, and being glad! When Paul and Silas were in Philippi in Acts chapter 16, the crowd rose up together and tore their robes off and beat them. Then they threw them in the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
!!! And Paul and Silas…are moping around…oh, whoa are we…oh how bad this is, it’s so horrible and painful, how can we ever get out of here? What did we ever do to deserve this? …Right? No!
They were praying and singing hymns of praise to God … And then Luke mentions, “and the prisoners were listening to them.” Note this: how you handle persecution is well observed by others.
And there’s the great earthquake everyone’s chains are loosed, the jailer thinks everyone has escaped, but Paul cries out, “No, we’re all here!” And then the jailer trusts in Christ!
Their response was one of praise, thanksgiving, rejoicing!
This also reminds me of when Peter was persecuted in Acts 5. Peter preaches to the people and they are convicted and intend to kill Peter. But they were told that they should not kill them lest they be found fighting against God, and so they simply beat them and told them not to speak about Jesus anymore and release them. So it says that Peter and others went on their way rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus name.” Rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ.
Persecution is a cause of great rejoicing, because it is being considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. And Jesus says that for those who are persecuted there is great heveanly reward. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”
Jesus tells the church at Smyrna in Revelation 2:10 … imagine if this was written to Northlight Baptist Church …
Revelation 2:8–10 8 “And to the angel (or better human messenger) of the church in Smyrna (I mean to the angel of the church of Northlight Baptist Church) write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: 9 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), …10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” A crown of life for those persecuted!
What you think God considers to be a reward? Do you realize that in the eternal city, the streets are paved with gold?
The city has as her brilliance like that of a very costly stone … a stone of crystal-clear jasper… The wall of the city has 12 foundation stones made out of Jasper, Sapphire, agate [ah-get], emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst… those are what the 12 foundation stones of the city are … and those walls are made of Jasper and the city is pure gold!
And the 12 gates of the city are 12 pearls… Each of the gates was a single pearl… And there is the river of the water of life coming from the throne of God and the Lamb and on either side of the river there is the tree of life with 12 kinds the fruit, yielding fruit every month and the leaves of the tree heal the nations…
And in that eternal city there will no longer be any curse and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it and his bond servants will serve him and they will see his face and his name will be on his servants for heads… And there is no more need of anything like lights hanging from the ceiling for the Lord God Himself illumines the eternal city… And he will give to them to reign for ever and ever.
Now, I would venture to say that the Lord knows how to reward his servants.
And so you must rejoice! You must! You must take a stand for Christ, live his life out and say a word on his behalf…wisely, prudently, graciously and lovingly, but do it.
Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Expect it … if they hated Christ, they will hate you.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
Philippians 1:28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
But don’t be intimidated by it: 1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,
In fact rejoice during persecution: James, writing to persecuted believers scattered abroad, writes in 1:2–3 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
You’re not called upon to be glad that you’re being tortured or mistreated in some way, but rejoice because of what persecution brings: endurance and reward.
That is our response. If you are not or never have experienced persecution, you need to wonder if you’re on the Lord’s side or not. All who live godly will experience it.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.10-12
John Bunyan ministered in the late 1600s in England. He was charged with illegally holding a religious meeting of at least five people outside of his own family and the Church of England. It was punishable by three months imprisonment which could be followed by banishment or execution if the person failed to promise not to reoffend.
While in prison, Bunyan pens his most famous work Pilgrim’s Progress, which is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature. It has been translated into more than 200 languages and since it’s publication in 1678, has never been out of print. It very well could’ve been the first novel ever written in the English language.
In the second part of that work, Bunyan pens a hymn we have in our hymnbook, hymn #507.
Charles Douglas, who wrote the music, noted of this hymn… “Bunyan’s burly [husky, beefy, robust] song strikes a new and welcome note in our Hymnal. The quaint sincerity of the words stirs us out of our easygoing dull Christianity to the thrill of great adventure.”
Let’s sing it strong and stately…
507 He Who Would Valiant Be