In the Fulness of Time/Part 11
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007|
|Dr. Figart cautions that “context must be considered in determining the interpretation of any passage.” In this article he looks at the final “Beatitude” and its message regarding Christ’s Messianic Kingdom.|
The Final Beatitude
Recently I was asked to teach a Sunday School lesson concerning “Watching for Christ’s Return” based on Matthew 24-25. In less than 30 minutes the teacher was expected to cover that long passage, emphasizing being prepared for the return of Christ, based on those two chapters. I decided to give basic principles, showing the purpose of Matthew, namely the presentation of Christ as Israel’s King, and that the Church is mentioned only twice in Matthew, first, in 16:18 as future, and second, in 18:15-20, regarding discipline in that future Church. Neither of these passages refer to any doctrine, certainly nothing of that phase of the return of Christ in the air for His Church. I then went to the Epistles to the churches of Thessalonica and Corinth showing how the truth of this phase of Christ’s return differs from His return to earth, as described in Matthew 24-25.
Once again I was reminded how context must be considered in determining the interpretation of any passage. Thus, when Christ spoke the Beatitudes, He was teaching principles which would be instituted when He returns back to earth to set up His Messianic Kingdom. Let us now consider the final Beatitude:
- Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This final beatitude has connection with verses three and six. In verse three it is said of the “poor in spirit” that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and in verse six there are those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Since all eight beatitudes concern the “blessed” ones, they are all stating the characteristics of believers in Messiah’s kingdom. As stated before, believers who are (among other things) “poor in spirit” are already righteous, so it is to be expected that persecution will come to them from the unrighteous. At first this may seem like a contradiction; they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and yet they are possessors of the kingdom of heaven. The question as to why the righteous suffer has come down through the ages and will continue to be asked until righteousness rules in the earth. In presenting His kingdom of heaven as “at hand” Jesus was making this as an offer, and even if He had been received as King a period of persecution of His followers would have occurred before He defeated all His enemies and went on to rule with a rod of iron. In the Old Testament this sequence of events is given more than once. In Jeremiah 30: 4-7,10: “And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the LORD, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear and not of peace. Ask now and see whether a man doth travail with child? Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, like a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it…Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.”
- Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall 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 persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”
These verses make it clear that to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness is to be persecuted for the sake of Christ. If righteousness is to be a hallmark of His kingdom, then He is the epitome of righteousness. True disciples should rejoice in this relationship no matter what it requires. The enemies of the kingdom are the enemies of the King. (Remember, also, that though all who enter that kingdom will be believers, some will have survived the Great Tribulation in ordinary earthly bodies, and will bear children during the kingdom. These children will have to make their own personal decision to follow the King, and if they do not, they will be enemies of the King until they receive Him as Savior.)
On the other hand the reward is also from the King and is associated with a community of prophets who knew what it was to suffer for Him. One of these men was Daniel, who stood firm for righteousness and for the LORD. It was given to Daniel to record this very message of persecution of the people of Messiah and the promise of reward as well. Daniel 12:1-3: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”
Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake shall turn others to righteousness, and their reward will be evident in their shining glory!
In next month’s article, we will discuss the words of Jesus regarding the responsibilities of true discipleship in His Kingdom. Always keep in mind, that though all Scripture may not be written to us, there may be eternal principles which are written for us. Even in this final beatitude, as we have inferred, the question of why the righteous suffer has always been with us, so that today, we too, may take comfort in knowing that there will come a time when any persecutions we may have to suffer here are temporary, and as the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”